Week in Review, March 14-18: ‘H3C’ Development Breaks Ground in Central City

H3c Groundbreaking
Partners and officials break ground on the H3C mixed-use development on the former site of Brown's Dairy in Central City. (Photo by Claire Bangser courtesy of Gulf Coast Housing Partnership)

NEW ORLEANS — Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., says he wants to “change the game” in regard to economic development in southeast Louisiana.  The region’s most visible business booster delivered the message at a jam-packed “state of the region” luncheon on March 17 at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency Hotel. Approximately 1,200 attendees dined on duck confit while listening to speeches, watching a flashy video and even taking in a silly SNL-style skit designed to highlight 2021 economic development wins and lay out GNO Inc.’s priorities for the coming year. Adding to the spectacle, WWL Radio set up a live broadcast from the event. In addition to Hecht, the organization’s outgoing chair Gay Le Breton and incoming chair Richard Cortizas both took a turn at the podium.  Hecht said 2021 was the “year of exiting gracefully” thanks to sales of Lucid, Sonpro Solar, Levelset and other regional startups whose combined price tag adds up to about $2.5 billion. He estimated that, once the transactions are complete, $1 billion of that will be pumped back into the New Orleans economy to “keep the flywheel turning.” Click here to read more.

Here are more of the week’s top business stories:

Gulf Coast Housing Partnership and Alembic Community Development representatives joined New Orleans city officials and community partners at a March 16 groundbreaking celebration for an $80 million new-construction affordable housing and healthcare development planned for Central City. The project is dubbed “H3C,” which the developers say is a reference to their belief in “culture, commerce and community.” The 210,000-square-foot-project will be located on the site of the former Brown’s Dairy processing plant parking lot, between Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and Baronne Street. Impetus Construction is the builder. CCWIVArchitecture created the design. The project, due to be complete in the summer of 2003, checks an important box for GCHP president and CEO Kathy Laborde, who says her organization has invested $114 million in the neighborhood since 2007.

The daily paper reports that actor and frequent onscreen superhero Anthony Mackie has purchased a 20-acre site in New Orleans East that he plans to turn into a movie studio. The New Orleans native, and former student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, hasn’t commented publicly on the plan, but the paper cites sources close to deal in its report. The property, which was purchased from car dealer Matt Bowers, is located near the Little Woods neighborhood on the Interstate 10 Service Road at Read Boulevard. Mackie started his film career 20 years ago and has recently turned his attention toward producing. He created a new production company called East Studios LLC for this new project. The timing is good, as there are roughly 20 movies and television shows in production in the state, according to Louisiana Economic Development. New streaming services have increased demand for new content, as did the production backup caused by the pandemic slowdown.

The Founders of Lucid and Levelset, local startup companies acquired for a combined $1.6B in 2021, have come together with local investors and startup champions to pledge $750,000 of investment in three leading companies from the Idea Village’s VILLAGEx 2022 accelerator program. The three finalist startups will compete against each other for the top prize on Friday, March 25 as part of the IDEApitch investment competition, the culmination of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. This pledge makes IDEApitch one of the largest pitch competitions in the country. The winning startup will receive a $400,000 commitment to the company’s next round, with each runner-up receiving $175,000. Attendance at IDEApitch is free and open to the public along with over 50 other events during NOEW. (From the Idea Village)

The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) has named Melanie Montroll as the next chief of its Harbor Police Department following a national search. She is a 21-year veteran of the force and will be the first woman to serve in that role. Montroll — who is the department’s assistant chief — will succeed Chief Robert Hecker, who will retire after having led HPD for more than 26 years. “The Port, our tenants and the region rely on our strong, ethical, and professional Harbor Police Department,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port NOLA president and CEO. “Assistant Chief Montroll has progressed through the leadership ranks of HPD and the law enforcement community due to her work ethic, integrity and commitment to the community and the maritime industry. She brings the experience and leadership qualities necessary to accomplish her goals of recruiting, retaining and continuing to train an exemplary and progressive law enforcement agency uniquely specialized in maritime and homeland security.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed Louisiana lawmakers Monday on the first day of the new legislative session, delivering a state of the state speech focused on his budget, redistricting, storm recovery and legislative priorities. Edwards’ final state of the state address focused heavily on the hardship the state has endured from COVID-19 and severe weather over the past two years, and how Louisiana is recovering after the death of more than 16,800 residents because of the pandemic. “On March 11, 2020, I signed a public health emergency for COVID-19,” he said. “And while it changed to reflect the ebb and flow of the pandemic, it has remained in effect since then. This Wednesday, the order expires. And after 24 months, I will not be renewing it.” Edwards credited the state’s recovery to frontline workers, access to vaccines and therapeutic treatments that have worked together to drive down infections. (Victor Skinner)

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