Week in Review, Feb. 13-17: JP Chamber, Michoud, the Carrollton and More

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NEW ORLEANS — In a sign of the times, the 2023 Jefferson Chamber Annual Meeting began and ended with discussions related to the state’s ongoing insurance crisis. The breakfast event took place Feb. 16 at the Alario Center in Westwego.

In his opening remarks, U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), whose district includes eight south Louisiana parishes, talked about the importance of re-examining the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s methods of determining new rates for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Scalise credited FEMA for its important work during disasters but he said figuring out the agency’s new Risk Rating 2.0 system is a challenge even for people in the business of fighting floodwaters. The end result is clear, though: skyrocketing rates for many south Louisiana homeowners.

“Risk Rating 2.0, which was rolled out a few years ago, just makes absolutely no sense,” Scalise told the event’s 600 attendees. “We’ve been trying to get them to explain it to the people who actually build levees, whether it’s in Jefferson, Terrebonne, Lafourche or other parts of my district, and if the hydrologists and engineers can’t make sense out of it, then there’s a serious problem. … We’re going to continue to push to get answers and then ultimately get reforms to the way that the flood insurance program works.”

At the end of the chamber meeting, Ryan Daul of USI Insurance Services led a discussion that approached the insurance crisis from another angle: the skyrocketing cost of homeowner’s premiums in the wake of Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida. After billions of dollars in damage and claims, a dozen companies have stopped doing business in the state and at least nine others have gone out of business altogether. The result is many homeowners have turned to the state’s insurer of last resort, Louisiana Citizens, which is raising rates by more than 60%.

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Here are more the week’s top business stories:

On Feb. 15, Felicity Property Company and Liberty Senior Living hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Carrollton, a new senior living community built on the site of the former Carrollton Courthouse (701 Carrollton Avenue). The approximately 100,000-square-foot space contains 73 assisted living apartments and 20 memory care apartments with private baths. More than 160 years old, the building housed a series of schools — including Benjamin Franklin High School and Audubon Charter School — before being dramatically expanded and renovated for its current purpose. The Carrollton will offer assisted living and memory care along with enrichment programming and restaurant-style dining. The Greek Revival building was designed in 1855 by Henry Howard, who is responsible for nearly 300 buildings in the city throughout his lifetime. Felicity purchased it at a public auction after it sat vacant for about decade. Impetus Construction led the 18-month construction project, which has an estimated price tag of $28.5 million. Waggonner & Ball is the architect. 

On Feb. 13, officials from NASA and Boeing hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new rocket production space at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility. At the event, Boeing announced a $1 million grant for STEM NOLA, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing STEM education to under-served communities in New Orleans and nationwide. But the main focus of the day was the debut of a new area at Michoud dedicated to building the next generation of NASA’s Space Launch System, a “super-heavy lift capability” rocket built to carry people and cargo to deep space. NASA said the SLS — and its new Exploration Upper Stage — will be the “most powerful rocket ever built, designed to launch large payloads farther into the solar system faster than historically possible.” The first generation of the Space Launch System debuted successfully on Nov. 16, when the un-crewed Artemis I mission journeyed around the moon. The milestone followed years of development and a healthy dose of criticism about the development of the SLS from industry insiders and observers.

Starting in May, low-fare airline Breeze Airways is adding nonstop flights from New Orleans to Los Angeles and Hartford, Conn. The seasonal summer routes will continue through Sept. 5 and are on sale now at introductory fares. Travelers can fly to Hartford from $59 one way and to LAX from $99. Fine print applies. Breeze now offers 143 nonstop routes between 35 cities in 21 states nationally.

On Feb. 15, the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority authorized President Jerry Reyes to negotiate an amendment to the Master Development Agreement with River District Neighborhood Investors to allow the developers to bring entertainment destination company Topgolf to the new River District neighborhood as soon as January 2025. “We are thrilled with today’s announcement about adding Topgolf as an entertainment anchor tenant for this dynamic new neighborhood,” said Jerry Reyes, the Authority’s president, in a press release. “Our vision has always been for this mixed-use development to encompass entertainment, housing and hospitality. This project advances that plan, and it does so while respecting our commitment to the inclusion of workforce and affordable housing units.”

On Feb. 18, the Disney Magic is embarking for the first time from New Orleans. The cruise ship is scheduled for 12 cruises, including four-, five- and six-night Western Caribbean sailings continuing through through April 10. Destinations include Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas.

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