When Saints fans pour into downtown New Orleans this season, they may notice something new along erstwhile empty blocks near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome: progress.
Namely, it’s the opening salvo of the ambitious South Market District retail and residential project. The New Orleans-based developer Domain Companies began construction over the summer for the first phase of the project, which altogether promises 500 apartments, 170,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a 1,300-car parking garage. It will all be in a six-building, four-block cluster centered on O’Keefe Avenue and Girod Street, between the new Rouses Market and the Loyola Avenue streetcar line.
These sites have been surface parking lots for many years. The project aims to restore more urban vitality here while replacing a de facto dead zone between the Warehouse District, the CBD and sports entertainment district around the Superdome.
“First, we’re creating enough mass so we’re not developing one project that would just stand there on its own,” says Matt Schwartz, a principal at Domain Companies. “And then by having the restaurant and entertainment components, it will become a destination in its own right, bringing more people to the area and that creates its own momentum.”
After Hurricane Katrina, the Domain Companies built a pair of large apartment buildings in Mid-City and along Tulane Avenue. As those were taking shape, the rise in professional jobs in the CBD and the potential of the nearby medical district now under construction drew the company’s interest in the South Market site, Schwartz says.
“When the Loyola streetcar location was announced, that solidified for us where we should go next,” he says.
The South Market District is planned in four phases. Its flagship Paramount building, which is underway now, will include 209 apartments and 22,000 square feet of retail space and should be ready for occupancy by the fall of 2014, Schwartz says. The second phase will add a parking garage and another 25,000 square feet for retail, and should be ready around the same time. The next two mixed-use phases, containing two buildings each, are expected to roll out a year later.
Kurt Weigle, the president and CEO of the city’s Downtown Development District, called the South Market project “a major milestone” for the area, with the potential to “create essentially a new downtown neighborhood.”