NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The city's chief attorney declared victory Monday in the long-running process to redevelop what many believe is the most valuable real estate in town, but a spokesman for one of the failed bidders for the World Trade Center project says hold on.
At one time it was a shining example of a city's future, built on trade.
"Oh, it's got an immense value with it's proximity to everything that goes on around here," said New Orleans native Shawn Kelly.
Built at the nexus of Canal Street and the river, the World Trade Center occupied prime real estate for 50 years. But for the past 20, it has slowly crumbled as the city got involved in efforts to redevelop it.
"It's a waste of a great resource in a great area," said Kelly.
More than a year ago, after a lengthy bidding process, the city awarded the rights to develop a hotel to the Four Seasons and a group of local partners. They promised to spend $360 million to build a 360-room luxury hotel, complete with more than 70 condos.
But the project was held up due to a lawsuit filed by a group called Two Canal Street Investors, the losing bidder.
Now that suit has been dismissed after no one from the group appeared in Orleans Civil Court.
"Judge Tiffany Chase dismissed on three separate grounds, all with prejudice," said City Attorney Rebecca Dietz.
A spokesman for the losing group, Stuart Fisher, said they didn't show because they recently lost their attorney and had no time to prepare. |Fisher blamed the judge for allowing the dismissal.
"This whole thing is corrupt, and I am making a formal charge with the judiciary commission," said Fisher, who bought the rights to Two Canal Street Investors for $10 from the original failed bidders. "The principals did not want to go forward with litigation, I bought it for $10, and I've got $3 million in obligations."
Fisher alleges a conspiracy, and he's asking for an investigation from any one of more than 14 different agencies.
"I'm going down that track civilly and turning over over 400,000 emails and 19,000 documents, turning them over to the authorities," Fisher said.
"We will be prepared to answer their case, but we think it's without merit," Dietz said.
The city is confident it will win on appeal, but they offered no timetable for Four Seasons construction to begin.
"We will have a better answer on that after we meet on the dismissal," said Dietz.
Many are ready for improvement.
"It's a tragedy. Look at everything else, and to have this, it's an eyesore," said Kelly.
An eyesore, that could be producing revenue and jobs, but instead sits empty.
In dismissing the failed bidders' lawsuit today, Judge Chase said there has been an abuse of the process.
Though he didn't show up for trial today, Fisher posted on Facebook that he wouldn't be showing up but promised another chapter in the long-running battle to redevelop the site.