Proponents say Convention Center hotel would generate millions; residents outraged over funding

Some residents outraged over proposed Convention Center hotel

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Residents packed the Convention Center board meeting Wednesday (Aug. 22) to voice their opinions on a multi-million-dollar hotel project proposed for the lot next to the facility. However, proponents say the 1,200-room hotel would generate millions for the city and the state.

"This is our fourth time trying to talk to you. We're going to keep coming back and we're going to keep on shutting it down," said one resident at the meeting.

Their concern? According to the Bureau of Governmental Research, the project would require $330 million in public funding.

"Our tax dollars are used to generate huge profits for private corporations while our community is deprived of necessary funds," said a resident. "We don't need a new pedestrian thoroughfare on Convention Center Boulevard with ground level retail space. We need pumps to keep our homes from flooding."

"I understand their concern wholeheartedly and I would ask, if you want more money to flow into the city of New can we afford not to?" said Ernest N. Morial Exhibition Hall Authority President Melvin Rodrigue.

Rodrigue argues that a new hotel would be a huge economic generator, creating $18 million in net new taxes to the city. He says that's not to mention the $282 million from the hotel itself, construction or other components of the mixed-use space proposed, like retail and residences.

"This land is sitting there and, with all respect, nothing from nothing leaves nothing. If we don't build anything there, we can't generate any economic impact," said Rodrigue.

"The more hotels you have, the more guests you can have," said Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association Mavis Early.

Early says more hotels are a good thing, but when it comes to one next to the Convention Center, it's more than just another place to stay.

"When our convention center was first built, we were the largest in the country. Now, almost every major city has a convention center," Early said.

Early says snagging a large-scale meeting or convention is extremely competitive, and planners are looking for locations that offer the greatest convenience.

"People love to come here, but if somebody else has some of what we have but has a hotel attached, they may get preference," Early explained.

Early didn't want to weigh in on negations or funding, but others have - like the Bureau of Governmental Research and Mayor Latoya Cantrell. Both are opposed. Mayor Cantrell says she has "grave concerns about the amount of subsidy this project will receive."

Other money will come from the Convention Center reserve account which tops out at over $220 million. We told you about that money in a Lee Zurick investigation in which critics came down on the Convention Center. They say it has underperformed, yet still sits on a surplus of millions.

According to a feasibility study released Wednesday, the Convention Center would benefit from a hotel but, compared to other hotels, could struggle for occupancy due to its location.