Convention Center Buys Former Louisiana ArtWorks Building, Announces Cooperative Endeavor Agreement With New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute

The site of the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, 725 Howard Ave.

NEW ORLEANS – The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, the governing body of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, has entered a cooperative endeavor agreement with New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) to operate an educational institution at 725 Howard Ave. By purchasing the Howard Avenue property, the former Louisiana ArtWorks building, the Authority has made an integral investment in local culinary and hospitality training and education, meeting a growing need in the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, reps said.

         “The Convention Center Authority recognizes that how we serve our visitors is critical to our success,” said Melvin Rodrigue, chairman of the Ernest N. Morial Exhibition New Orleans Hall Authority. “NOCHI will help bring our already excellent local restaurant and hospitality service levels up to new heights by providing for a long-term, sustainable plan for the development of our hospitality workforce. Given New Orleans’ standing as a world class convention and culinary destination, having a culinary and hospitality institute is long overdue. We are proud to partner with and commend the leadership of NOCHI for their dedication to this effort.”

         Founded by George Brower, Ti Martin and Dickie Brennan, NOCHI is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing economic, social and cultural benefit through the local and global service industry, reps said. It is licensed and approved by the State of Louisiana’s Board of Regents to offer two 650-hour certificate programs developed in coordination with CIA Consulting, a division of the preeminent The Culinary Institute of America, and an esteemed local advisory board. In addition to career training programs, NOCHI will also offer community engagement programs and support research and scholarship initiatives that benefit the hospitality industry.

         “This strategic partnership between the Convention Center and NOCHI is a model public-private partnership,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said. “Together, we’re leveraging the strength of a key industry in our state to build a resource that will create greater access and opportunity for the community.  By striving for excellence in education and entrepreneurship this partnership will drive culinary tourism to the region, and I am extremely grateful to everyone involved for making this a reality.”

         The Authority has purchased the building for $12 million and entered a 40-year lease agreement with NOCHI. A portion of the purchase price will be set aside for leasehold improvements. The CEA also calls for NOCHI to provide for the full construction and ongoing maintenance of the facility, maintain consistent annual enrollment across all its vocational training and development programs, and serve as the preferred provider of Employer-Based Training as defined by the Workforce Investment Act for the Authority and its third-party staffing providers.

         The total project cost is $32 million, and upon completion of renovations to the building, the facility will feature two culinary teaching labs, two baking and pastry labs, a restaurant lab, a wine and spirits lab, a large event center including a banquet kitchen, a café open to the public and traditional classroom and office spaces.

         NOCHI plans involve partnerships that will help advance New Orleans as an overall thought leader in the food and hospitality space.  Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business is planning to have dedicated office and classroom space at NOCHI. Tulane University President Michael A. Fitts said, “Tulane is thrilled to find new ways to contribute to the economic future of New Orleans, and this endeavor, which aligns beautifully with our strategic focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, makes for a very exciting partnership.”  

         A.B. Freeman Dean Ira Solomon joined in congratulating NOCHI and said the school is planning new programming in hospitality entrepreneurship. “We are excited about the opportunity to have classes at NOCHI and contribute to, and learn from, the study of one of the most important and long-standing industries in our city,” he said.

         Partnerships with other organizations including Delgado Community College and University of Holy Cross are also under development with further details to be announced later this year.

         “The hospitality industry is the region’s largest employer with a workforce of more than 88,000 individuals, and it is growing rapidly,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “NOCHI’s capacity to double the region’s output of skilled workers will alleviate the unmet demand. This is a win-win-win for our industry, our state and our local community.”

         “None of this would have been possible without the entire hospitality community coming together in this effort to create a major culinary and hospitality institute, the steadfast support of the Goldring Family Foundation, The Helis Foundation and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, and of course, the Convention Center’s leadership in forging this partnership with us,” NOCHI’s executive director Carol Markowitz said, “and for all of that, we are truly grateful.” 

         The other members of NOCHI’s founding board of directors include Edgar Chase III, Barbara Mollere and John Besh.

         A ground-breaking is expected this spring. NOCHI is scheduled to open its doors in conjunction with New Orleans’ tri-centennial in 2018.

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