Week in Review, July 18-22: Pontchartrain Beach, Grove Place and More

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Plam Tree
Photo courtesy of the Pontchartrain Beach Foundation

NEW ORLEANS — On July 18, the Pontchartrain Beach Foundation announced it has submitted a proposal to obtain a lease for the Pontchartrain Beach site and develop it into a passive recreation and ecological education area for the public. The nonprofit was co-founded by Guy Williams, president of Gulf Coast Bank, and Michael Liebaert, retired managing director of the Azby Fund, to restore, develop and operate Pontchartrain Beach. At a July 19 meeting of a Lakefront Management Authority subcommittee, proponents and critics of the plan made their case. Supporter of the project include the University of New Orleans, and the Lincoln Beach Foundation. Williams is hopeful a 49-year lease will be awarded and that federal infrastructure funds will help get the project off the ground.

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

On July 19, New Orleans Restoration Properties broke ground on 32 affordable rental apartments that will span a city block on Earhart Boulevard in Hollygrove. Dubbed Grove Place, the project is expected to cost approximately $14.3 million and be completed by the summer of 2023. The site, which has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina, retains several historic residential structures that will be renovated. NORP executives were joined at the groundbreaking event by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, City Councilman Joseph Giarrusso, representatives of the Hollygrove Neighborhood Association, and other partners and supporters. With financing from Enterprise Community Partners, the City of New Orleans and the Louisiana Housing Corporation, NORP plans to “create and preserve critically needed affordable housing in Hollygrove and bring investment to a community that has historically seen minimal funding for new development,” according a spokesperson.

The NOLA Coalition — a collection of local nonprofits, civic organizations and businesses that have joined forces to address crime and quality-of-life issues — has expressed support for the City Council’s July 21 vote that approved pay raises for New Orleans police officers and overturned a previous council ban on using existing facial recognition technology to help solve crimes. “Yesterday, the New Orleans City Council voted to approve both a comprehensive pay raise for NOPD officers, and to restore the NOPD’s access to utilizing technology,” said a coalition spokesperson in an emailed statement. “The first will improve retention and morale, and the second will give the NOPD additional tools to keep our city safe, coupled with guardrails and procedures for ensuring accuracy. The NOLA Coalition, representing a broad cross-section of New Orleans, commends the Council and the Mayor’s Office for working together for a better New Orleans for our children, and all of our citizens.” … Also this week, the Coalition landed a major contribution as it works to raise $15 million over the next three years to help fund youth services in New Orleans. Latter & Blum announced that it has made a $500,000 contribution to the newly formed alliance, which is composed of more than 275 nonprofit, civic and business organizations that are hoping to “create a safer and more prosperous New Orleans for all residents.” 

Waitr has revealed the logo for ASAP, the soon-to-be new name for the company as it rebrands and transitions to a “deliver anything” model. The new name and logo reflects a “fresh and dynamic look that reinforces the company’s new vision to ‘deliver anything’ to consumers — same day — from any type of business, while still paying homage to Waitr’s local roots,” said a spokesperson. “To express our ‘anything, anywhere — ASAP’ vision, our design team chose to break from the traditional, limited color palette and embrace a more expansive set,” said Mark D’Ambrosio, the company’s chief sales officer. “We want the new ASAP brand to reflect a fresh and recognizable look that still conveys our core feeling: that we’re here for you now, and always.”

BASF announced a final investment decision on a $780 million project to double production capacity at its chemical manufacturing complex in Ascension Parish, marking the launch of the third and final phase of an expansion plan announced in 2018. Counting all three expansion phases and other site investments, BASF will retain more than 1,000 existing jobs and add 37 new direct jobs with average annual salaries from $86,600 to $105,600 per year, plus benefits. LED estimates that the total project plan will result in 147 new indirect jobs, for a total of 184 new jobs in the Capital Region.

Fortune International — an Illinois-based processor, distributor and importer of seafood, meats and gourmet products — has announced the acquisition of New Orleans Fish House, a supplier of wholesale seafood and specialty products to chefs and restaurants in the Gulf South. NOFH owners Bill Borges, Brett Borges and Cliff Hall will remain with Fortune. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 1990, NOFH specializes in Gulf seafood, beef, lamb and other proteins. The family-owned and operated business has expanded from a small seafood house in New Orleans into a supplier to restaurants, retailers and wholesalers from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle. NOFH said it is one of the largest purchasers of yellowfin and blue fin tuna from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the largest purchaser of red fish in the United States. Local restaurant customers include Acme Oyster House, Commander’s Palace, Restaurant Revolution, GW Fins, the Dickie Brennan Group, the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Emeril’s Restaurants and Drago’s. Hotel customers include the Hilton, Hyatt, Windsor Court, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $2 million grant to St. Bernard Parish Government to build a road to connect the St. Bernard Port, Harbor, and Terminal District and a local highway. As a partner to SBPG and the St. Bernard Port, St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation assisted in writing the federal grant application and securing broad support from community leaders and elected officials. The grant will provide improved access to nearby businesses and St. Bernard Parish Hospital, encouraging business expansion and growth. The EDA grant will be matched with $1.8 million in local funds and is expected to create 195 jobs, retain 390 jobs, and generate $15 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates. “Securing funding for this project was one of many steps to creating an environment ripe for economic opportunity here in St. Bernard,” said Meaghan McCormack, CEO of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. “We hope the construction of such an integral thoroughfare increases the appetite for more businesses to move into the parish.”