There is a parcel of land that’s arguably the prime location in the entire state, but that has also been perhaps the most entangled in legal complexities. That land is the site of the building most recently known as the World Trade Center. Owned by the city but leased to the World Trade Center’s governing organization, the once-magnificent building has stood virtually empty in an age when the business of international trade no longer requires offices in every port.
Last month a complicated deal was finalized in which an agency of the city, acting on the city’s behalf, essentially bought out the rest of the Center’s lease. The city hopes to gain back its investment from the parking areas it owns in the vicinity.
Now the city can search for a new developer with new ideas. Located at the riverfront off Canal Street and near Poydras Street, across from Harrah’s Casino, near the French Quarter with the Spanish Plaza as a backyard and providing a commanding view of the river, the 33-story building could have great potential.
Often suggested is that at least a portion of the center could be turned into a hotel. That would be a great use, especially for the upper stories. A prestigious management company with a well-connected reservations list could attract big-spending guests who will also provide street activity, and enhance nightlife, along the riverfront.
We wish that there still would be some activity in terms of international trade on the lower floors, and that the building can serve its intended purpose. We also hope that the hotel operator can once again make the revolving bar at the top a must-see place, especially one that can become renowned for jazz, the music that steamboats once carried upstream.
Most of all, we hope that the lobby and mezzanine area can be incorporated into a Museum of the River. Having such a museum has been talked about for years, and there have been starts and stops, but if this building is able to reach its economic potential it could help make the museum an important destination.
When the World Trade Center was built, the vision was for it to be the centerpiece of the city’s international presence. There have been bumps and complexities along the way, but now there’s another chance. A great location deserves a great building.