Makeover Planned for Downtown New Orleans

By Amalia Otet, Associate Editor Hotel Le Cirque, one of the pieces that literally adds color to the historical district of New Orleans, is about to get a facelift. The lodging facility famous for its multicolored light show enchanting visitors every night [...]

Hotel Le Cirque, one of the pieces that literally adds color to the historical district of New Orleans, is about to get a facelift.

The lodging facility famous for its multicolored light show enchanting visitors every night is currently undergoing a $7 million floor-by-floor renovation. The 135-room hotel was purchased earlier this year by a group of New York investors, 2 Lee Circle Associates L.L.C., for a reported $4.7 million. When restoration is complete, slated for fall 2011, the hotel will be re-launched as The Hotel Modern New Orleans. One of the things that made it look so attractive to investors was its excellent location on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line, in the heart of the city’s blossoming Warehouse/Arts District. “This area has incredible potential with museums nearby,” Klaus Ortlieb, managing partner in the property, told the Times-Picayune. “What I like about this area is it is just the opposite of the French Quarter.”

Another project that might play an important part in downtown’s revitalization process is the redevelopment of the old Woolworth site, at the corner of Canal and North Rampart Streets. If the project gets the much awaited approval from the city council, developer Praveen Kailas plans to transform the long-vacant store into a high-rise apartment building that would provide 312 market-rate apartments, 38,000 square feet of retail space on the first two floors and a 500-space parking garage. Yet the proposed 205 feet-tall building would require a change in the applicable zoning law that currently limits the height of the site to 70 feet for new construction.

The $70 million project faces massive opposition from the French Quarter residential organizations and other preservation groups that object to the building’s size and design, arguing that it is too tall and undistinguished as compared to the other iconic structures of the Vieux Carre, the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhood.

On the other hand, those in favor of the endeavor say that the development would benefit the entire community, as there is much need to rejuvenate the area and strengthen local business along Canal Street; it would also provide a very practical solution to the parking issue troubling the new Theatre District, allowing public access to 200 of the 500 parking spaces available.