Saturday, April 28, 2007

New Orleans rising

My buddy Tommy from New Orleans thought my previous post with the Google Earth images of hurricane damage cast too negative a view of the city 20 months after Hurricane Katrina.

He's probably right. I'm more than a year removed from my life in New Orleans, and my perspective on where the recovery stands is sure to be off the mark.

Tommy wrote this in an email to me:

"Most of us here have moved on from looking at the destruction of Katrina. The way I see it, you're either focused on the future or dwelling on the past. We're all tired of looking back, and it's becoming boring to hear people constantly whine about it."

As proof of the city's forward strides, he sent along these amazing images of building projects either underway or well into the planning stages.

This first highrise, Trump International Hotel and Tower, is a 70-story mixed-use building being developed by The Donald himself. At 716 feet, excluding a 126-foot spire, the tower would easily surpass One Shell Square as the city's tallest structure and would become the tallest building along the Gulf Coast outside of Houston.

A recent Times-Picayune article reported that Trump plans to break ground on the project this summer and complete it in late 2009. Trump International would mark the most significant high-rise construction in the city since the 1980s when the oil bust put the office-tower market into a coma.

Trump had announced plans for the building before the hurricane hit. His commitment to the project in the wake of the storm certainly expressed an element of moral support for the region, but it also represented an important vote of confidence in the city's future prospects.

A local developer wants to construct these side-by-side, 35-story towers in the New Orleans suburb of Jefferson. The $590 million residential towers, dubbed The St. Raymond, would be the tallest buildings in Jefferson Parish.

Their airy, straight-out-of-Dubai designs were dreamed up by famed New York architect Daniel Libeskind, who was a finalist in the World Trade Center master design contest.

The developer is tapping the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, which provides tax incentives for investing in areas damaged by Katrina.

Another group of local developers is building Tracage, a 24-floor, $60 million luxury condo tower on the edge of the Warehouse District. Ground was broken in November, and the building is scheduled to be completed in early 2009.

Lastly, work on Colonial Condominiums is nearing completion on the edge of the French Quarter at the corner of Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue. Though this project won't grab the skyline attention that the others will, it's important because of its location in an area outside the French Quarter boundaries that had struggled to attract significant investment before Katrina.

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