NEW ORLEANS-The Hyatt Regency New Orleans and the Superdome, both seriously damaged by last year’s Hurricane Katrina, will have a second life as an important part of a $716-million, six-block development anchored by the National Jazz Center. The first stage of the reconstruction will begin almost immediately.

The 20-acre Hyatt Jazz District will include an outdoor auditorium, new city government buildings and reconstruction of the hotel and Superdome. The development, expected to generate 6,500 permanent jobs, is predicted to carry a $6-billion economic benefit over 20 years.

The first construction will focus on a complete overhaul of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans at 500 Poydras Plaza, which had its superstructure remain relatively intact while the interior sustained heavy storm damage. Part of the work calls for moving the hotel’s entrance from Poydras to Loyola Avenue. The Hyatt renovation is scheduled for completion in late 2007.

“The advisory board has been at work on this for a good six months, at least,” says Jonathan Dedmon, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc. which owns the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. “This started coming together back in September though.” The hotel owner spent more than $2 million to create the advisory board and fund the planning.

The Hyatt District Rebirth Advisory Board’s master plan, created by collection of local and international experts in architecture, planning, economics, hospitality and the arts, is envisioned to be a much-needed energizer for jumpstarting an area that was losing steam long before the hurricane hit. “If you hear project architect Thom Mayne talking about it, he talks about taking space that was a bunch of disparate facilities and really opening it up with this National Jazz Center. When it’s done, it’ll be similar to Millennium Park in Chicago,” Dedmon tells

Transwestern Commercial Services’ Bryan Burns III goes one step further, pointing out that while revitalization was long in coming, Hurricane Katrina was the catalyst to put the specific plan in place. “For several administrations, there’s been talk and thought about what to do about city hall and the other buildings around there,” says Burns, who is a senior vice president in the New Orleans’ office. “The advisory board wisely decided that, as opposed to reinvesting in that entire complex, which was outmoded, it made more sense to utilize resources toward a more modern approach.”

When all is said and done, Burns predicts the project should be a positive step in the Downtown’s redevelopment. “It’ll provide a strengthening of the anchor that the Superdome provides for that end of Poydras Street,” he says. “It should improve it with the redevelopment of the Hyatt. The addition of the National Jazz Center will add to the New Orleans’ tourism base.”

The National Jazz Center is an iconic design that will house the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra as well as performance space, studios, classrooms, library and offices. “The new National Jazz Center and park will be the catalyst that stimulates the revitalization of the New Orleans economy rightfully centered around jazz, our most abundant natural resource,” says Irvin Mayfield, the orchestra’s artistic director. “This will be the finest structure for jazz in the world.”

The master plan calls for a bridge to be built to link the Superdome to the park. A loop bus and streetcar will link the district to the French Quarter, convention center and riverfront.

“The new Hyatt Jazz District is a transformative project that will change the very nature of New Orleans for the better, much as the Superdome did a little more than 30 years ago,” Wm. Raymond Manning, the project’s lead local architect, says in the release.

The Pritzker Prize-winning Mayne and his firm Morphosis in Santa Monica, CA drew up the entire master plan for the committee. Others involved in the project and on the board are Laurence Geller, chairman, president and CEO of Strategic Hotels & Resorts; Douglas Geoga, president of Global Hyatt Corp.; Keith Hobbs, CEO of United Designers Europe LTD; Wynton Marsalis, renowned musician and composer; Irvin Mayfield, artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra; William H. Oakland, professor emeritus of Tulane University; J. Kevin Poorman of Pritzker Realty; and Wade R. Ragas of Real Property Associates Inc.

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