Friday, 07 February 2014 17:54

Artworks building sale: New Orleans restaurant industry prevails

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building-artThe ArtWorks building future sale of the ArtWorks building to the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute is New Orleans business and politics at its best.

 Here are my observations based upon reports by Tyler Bridges of the Lens, other articles and Friday morning's Google Hangout with Bridges:

Members of three industries bid on the building, the hospitality-restuarant industry won.  The civil rights museum was the highest bidder and we might see some future litigation.  The tech industry, led by Chris Schultz and The Launch Pad, also did not win.  For sure, it is quite difficult for a new industry which has not developed the political and financial clout in this city to be able to compete with some of the leading instutitions in the community.

Here are some of the main points from the Google Hangout with Bridges.  You can move the slider to watch those parts of the interview or you can watch the entire interview:

Quotes from Hangout

01:23: Since 2011, this, again, $20 million complex has sat vacant.

02:30: S: The city is losing $50,000 per month. I'm I correct? T: Yeah, the city lent money for the project and they are currently owed $6.8 million. So the city budget this year is projected to spend $630,000 to help pay off that loan.

04:10: Their plan [Culinary Institute] is to take Delgado's existing culinary arts school, which serves around 400 students, and move that over to this building.

04:40: A new thing is called the Executive Chef Program. Currently, the top restaurants, if they really want their best chefs to really get into know all about food, all of its components, they send them out of state. So this program will now allow them to keep them in the state. So the idea is to serve an industry that people in New Orleans and outside really love, which is the food industry. The taxpayers have already sunk $18 million into this building and they would spend even more under the winning bidder. Delgado has already received 9 million dollars from the state legislature to go for a culinary institute. Taxpayers have a lot at stake in this building ultimately being successful.

08:42: S: Do you think  there are other issues out there? You think that the Civil Rights Museum Group is going to take any action? Do you think this is a story where, again, from my view at least, where the restaurant industry in New Orleans is very entrenched, both financially and politically, and much more so than the other bidders? T: Clearly, yeah, they have a lot more political juice. It involves Tulane, UNO, Delgado. They’ve got some foundations...A lot of people like the idea. Since my first story appeared in The Lens on Wednesday, I've gotten a lot of e-mails from people saying that it sounds like a great idea and that it's really something New Orleans needed...but the Civil Rights people at the museum are not happy. They don't think it has been a fair process. I think the Launch Pad folks are disappointed, but they're just gonna move on. But there could be an effort by the people at the Civil Rights museum to challenge it.   

Summary of article written by Tyler Bridges on The Lens 

This week, the Louisiana Artists Guild announced that it was selling the failed ArtWorks building to The New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute. However, as Tyler Bridges writes in a recent Lens article, the Culinary Institute's bid was not the highest one. While the institute bid $6.2 million and won, the Louisiana Civil Rights Museum bid was $8.2 million. Now, board members of the Friends of the Civil Rights Museum  want some answers. "We're going to legally look at what our options are," Madlyn Bagneris, president of the Friends, said. William Hines, chairman of the artists guild's board said, on the other hand, that "the organization wasn't obliged to pick the highest bidder" and that "the museum's financing was tenuous." 

Friends of the Civil Rights Museum is also questioning why the Culinary Institute was allowed to increase its initial bid while no other bidders were. Hines asserted that the Culinary Institute's initial bid was $5.1 million, but that Mayor Landrieu wouldn't approve the deal unless the institute matched the $6.2 million bid of Launch Pad, the third bidder. The city had to approve the deal because they had invested millions of dollars in the building. 

The ArtWorks project failed in 2011 when the artists and art galleries were unable to pay the debt. The new owners of the building, the Culinary Institute, is a "consortium featuring Delgado Community College, the University of New Orleans, Tulane University and several prominent restauranteurs." 

Read more in original source: Tyler Bridges: Louisiana Civil Rights Museum Would Have Paid $2 Million More for ArtWorks Building [insert link]


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Karen Jensen assisted with article 

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