Lakefront redevelopment ideas may soon be reality

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The owner of Tipitina's has signed a lease to build a new concert facility on the lakefront. The concert hall will take over the old Bally's Casino site, which has sat empty for 10 years.

"The development as envisioned now would be a 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, a fuel dock, open air market, some restaurants, a recording studio," said Wilma Heaton, with the non-flood asset division of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East.

"The thought was, it's a great spot that can be a destination for citizens of the community," said Roland Von Turnakowski.

He is betting that New Orleanians will flock to the old casino site and has just entered into a 50-year agreement with the authority. He envisions something similar to the riverfront amphitheatre that was a popular concert venue during the 1984 World's Fair.

"It didn't occur to me that we following in the footsteps of the World's Fair, but I guess we are," Von Turnakowski said.

The Tip's owner will pay up to $50,000 a month for the site that could ultimately include a tie-in with one of the country's best music schools.

"Educational purposes, environmental purposes, recreational and economic," Heaton said.

In addition to the concert venue, the levee authority is also contemplating recreating wetlands out to the east, a project that could help the health of Lake Pontchartrain.

"The idea is to build a small marsh on the lakeshore near the lakefront airport, that's an area that has very little marsh," said John Lopez with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

That project could also include a beach, a boardwalk and a fishing pier near the new concert amphitheatre.

"Building the marsh aesthetically would help, and help fishing and crabbing and would build on their project to attract people to the site," said Lopez.

Wetlands funding must still be secured, but supporters are eager to get started on projects that many say will help revitalize a long under-utilized site on Lake Pontchartrain.

Developers say they should have plans in hand within 90 days, and they are hoping to host some type of activity out at the old Bally's site by the second half of next year.

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