MARSALA: $700,000.00 For 2-Acre Feasibility Study? That’s New Orleans Today!

The New Orleans Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Corporation (MYHMC) has voted to budget spending $500,000.00 with HR&A Advisors, a firm headed by Mitch Landrieu’s former First Deputy Mayor, to review the feasibility of developing approximately 2-acres of West End Lakeshore Park.

On May 9, 2023, the MYHMC voted for the law firm it employs, Stone Pigman, to “engage” HR&A Advisors headquartered in New York, as an expert for the development of West End Lakeshore Park. During public discussion, one resident estimated the total cost for the Stone Pigman and HR&A “engagement” would be approximately $750,000.00 in fees for the Feasibility Study, RFQ development, and RFP reviews. No one on the MYHMC disagreed with that estimate. The President of the MYHMC is former New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell.

The President of HR&A Advisors is Jeff Hebert, the former First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer to former Mayor Mitch Landrieu. HR&A has other former Landrieu staff members on its team.

As Mayor, Landrieu’s vision for the developing West End Lakeshore Park was extensive. During Landrieu’s terms the development process was put in motion with the West End Lakeshore Park being removed from New Orleans Parks and Parkways budget. Former Council Member Susan Guidry in 2015 re-zoned three acres of the western part of West End Lakeshore Park to from “Park” to “Mixed-use.”

Those three acres on the west side of the park were first a rose garden, then a lawn, then a shell parking lot, and finally an asphalt parking lot. The western most 1.3 acres of land, which accessed the restaurants, are just outside the park in Jefferson Parish and are owned by the State of Louisiana.

West End Lakeshore Park was created in 1906 by Louisiana State Act 209 and leased to the City of New Orleans. Per ACT 209, West End Lakeshore Park spans from the New Basin Canal on the East to Jefferson Parish line on the west.

In 2019, Council Member Joe Giarrusso continued the process to commercializing West End Lake shore Park by increasing the buildable height from 3 stories to 4 stories in the entire West End area, a 33% increase in livable area.

As written, the ordinance states a change from 60’ to 65’ in building height, with 17’ clearance underneath for Hurricane Flood protection. The extra 5’ was needed by developers to accommodate a 4th floor and make projects financially viable.

In 2021, Giarrusso passed the CEA with the State of Louisiana and Jefferson Parish. The CEA calls for West End Lakeshore Park to be developed with: “Restaurants, residents, parking, and other improvements.” Other improvements could include bars with video poker, commercial, retail, short-term rentals, etc….

Link to video of passage of the 2021 CEA at the New Orleans City Council meeting:

It was not until a public records request in the Summer of 2022 and the website published the CEA that the MYHMC added the CEA to its website. At that point residents, environmentalists, and open space advocates began to organize to save West End Lakeshore Park. The park is now home to 29-heritage oak trees plus a wildlife habitat of pelicans, eagles, turtles, and more.

Giarrusso’s web site shows a conceptual of four buildings being built at the end of the park and the removal of many of the trees, potential bike path, and wildlife habitat.

Since June of 2022, The Hayride has been publishing articles covering the city’s effort to develop West End Lakeshore Park by the City Council and MYHMC.  Link to Hayride Articles:

The action by the MYHMC goes against the vast majority of responses to an on-line survey 93% want the wildlife habitat protected, 96% want the heritage oaks protected, 86% want the park returned to the budget of Parks and Parkways, 92% want the park classified as a bird sanctuary, 90% want the area returned to park zoning from mixed-use, 83% want the MYHMC to apply for federal 3 to 1 matching grants for environmental projects on Lake Pontchartrain, 84% want the former street in that park of the park converted to a bike path connecting the bike path along the lake to the bike path out to the point.  The survey is still open to the public:

During the May 9th meeting, residents questioned why the MYHMC board would spend another $200,000.00 on a Feasibility study, when studies in 2017 by the Regional Planning Commission and 2022 by the MYHMC concluded that the area is now saturated with bars and restaurants. Only if the HR&A Advisors Feasibility Study contradicts the first two studies can HR&A receive the additional $300,000.00 to develop the RFQ and RFP.  The board has stated that Heritage Oak trees will be saved, that limits the buildable site to two acres, far less a project than HR&A normally takes.

MYHMC has stated that it wants to save the heritage oak trees which would reduce the buildable to under 2-acres. When asked why proceed with the initial spending of $300,000.00 for a third feasibility of the project under the scope of HR&A Advisors, the MYHMC Board had no response. When asked why not first determine some parameters to give to HR&A Advisors before spending the money, the MYHMC advised that it had no plan and needed HR&A to develop a plan.

Citizens pointed out to the MYHMC board that the West End Lakeshore Park plan could be to retain the park, tree, wildlife habitat, bike path, add pickleball and use the $700,000.00 that will be going to Stone Pigman and HR&A for restoration project.  The concern of residents is the MYHMC is hiring HR&A to do a 3rd Feasibility Study to contradict the first two, to provide justification for the development of West End Lakeshore Park.

HR&A Advisor’s website offers some perspective to the direction of MYHMC and what could be their proposal to develop West End Lakeshore Park:


“Some of Jeff’s most notable accomplishments include the City’s historic riverfront revitalization projects, the redevelopment of the former World Trade Center, the new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport…”

“HR&A will also be at the forefront of providing solutions to the complex and interconnected challenges cities continue to face around race, class, climate change, inclusive economic growth, crumbling infrastructure, technological innovations, and housing affordability.”

Residents have compared developing West End Lakeshore Park to developing the new northside terminal at Louis Armstrong Airport, which was built without an access road in the planning. The access road will cost an additional $300,000,000.00 and will divide the 5,000-member neighborhood of Veterans Heights in half.

To build the terminal, thirty-two cares of green space were covered with concrete. Most of the concrete was supplied by Landrieu Concrete. Employees of the airport businesses must park on the southside due to insufficient parking on the northside and spend an hour a day in shuttle buses. Most believe the better solution was to remodel the existing airport on the south side where support facilities such as rental cars, Amtrack, Airline Highway, and the direct pipeline to NORCO for jet fuel remain.

While building the airport, Landrieu signed off on a no-bid management contract which started at $100,000.00 to be under the cap for no-bid contracts. Over time amendments were done to the orginal contract to increase the value to over $4,000,000.00.

Residents at the MYHMC meeting questioned the board on using Stone Pigman to engage HR&A Advisors for the HR&A contract as now MYHMC will claim Attorney-Client Privilege to prevent Public Records Request of its correspondence with HR&A.

West End Lakeshore Park was built on Lake Pontchartrian. A monument at the East End honors Edward Wisner whose pumps converted thousands of acres of wetlands into farmland and ranching.  Many of those acres became oil & gas producing with a large percentage of the revenues now going to New Orleans via The Wisner Trust. Annual distributions exceed $2 Million dollars.

Of the responding to the survey 97% believe the MYHMC board should seek Wisner Funds to retain West End Lakeshore Park as a park. Perhaps the name would be changed to Wisner West End Lakeshore Park.

The City Council is currently investigating prior uses of Wisner Trust Funds for misuse. One example is that in during Mitch Landrieu’s term he transferred over $1 million in Wisner funds to the Foundation for Louisiana (FFL).  FFL then paid the Cuzan Services invoice of $600,000.00 to the City of New Orleans to remove four memorials. Cuzan sub-contracted out the project. An additional $400,000.00 was spent buying two used cranes, which were never used again. Cranes can be rented for an estimated cost of $3,000.00 per day, which would have been $30,000.00 for the full project.

In 2011, Landrieu also steered most of $2 million of a Federal Grant with $750,000.00 from the city of New Orleans for FFL to study how to reconnect the Treme at the Claiborne Ave overpass. In 2023, a second Federal Grant of $500,000.00 was awarded to New Orleans for the Claiborne Ave overpass.

Residents are concerned that the actions of MYHMC will result in the diversion of Marina Financial Reserves to law firms and consultants rather than spend the funds to restore the park to its orginal purpose from ACT 209 of 1906: that it be used as a “Public Park or Amusement Park.”

Additional concerns are that while claiming the project is “what is best for New Orleans,” it will turn into another Claiborne Overpass or Airport Access Road project which destroys the local community for a bad idea that generates money for consultants and concrete companies that cover green space and wildlife habitats.



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