EB-5 has been ‘integral to jump-starting’ one of the biggest development projects in New Orleans history

  • Written by Posted on May 27, 2020 | Updated on May 27, 2020 | 2 min read

The former World Trade Center, once an iconic landmark in New Orleans, is now an eyesore. But developers are turning it into a luxury Four Seasons hotel. And they want EB-5 to cover 26% of the $468 million cost. U.S. representative Cedric Richmond supports the use of EB-5 for the project claiming it has been “integral to jump-starting this project and putting folks to work.”

While EB-5 is a political lightning rod these days, it’s still seen by some developers and politicians as a potentially vital element in bolstering an economy ravaged by COVID-19. And in New Orleans, negative economic forces have been unravelling the city long before the virus made the news. Case in point, the former World Trade Center, a tower built in the 1960s that was once an iconic landmark has in recent times fallen into a deteriorated state; so much so that over a decade ago it was taken over by the city and is one of the biggest development projects in New Orlean’s history. 

Generating ‘much-needed jobs and tax revenue’

The project was previously scheduled to be completed by December 2020 (who knows how the pandemic will delay that timeline). Local politicians have maintained that the revival of the tower would not only look good on the skyline but in the city’s coffers as it is expected to generate significant tax revenue and employment. While the pandemic may impact scheduling, the project is expected to create 1,600 construction jobs, with more than a quarter being “permanent.” The developers will contribute $3.25 million each year in rent to the city of New Orleans over the first decade; the figure will rise to $3.75 million per year during the following ten years; and then inflation-adjusted numbers will be used as rent figures until the completion of the 99-year deal.

Representative Cedric Richmond, whose district includes the project site, believes in the project and in EB-5’s role in making it happen — even as he recognizes that EB-5 could benefit from some reform measures. “Returning this building to commerce will provide much-needed jobs and tax revenue to the city. Moving forward however, I support efforts to reform this program to ensure that more robust integrity measures are put in place to preserve its long-term vitality and stated goals.”

So far, EB-5 is said to have contributed $25 million to the project, well under the EB-5 target raise of about $120 million.

Read the NOLA.com story