Wal-Mart wins bid to redevelop Gentilly Woods Shopping Center

Date: Jul 20, 2011

Nearly two years after Gentilly residents gave a thumbs-down to letting Wal-Mart move into the shuttered Gentilly Woods Shopping Center, the mega-retailer has been chosen to redevelop the blighted site along Chef Menteur Highway.

Though several facets of the plan still need to be finalized, design documents indicate that Wal-Mart would tear down the dilapidated 184,000-square-foot strip mall that faces the highway and build a 116,000-square-foot big-box store backing up to Louisa Drive. A parking lot would comprise most of the front part of the property.
The project would cost Wal-Mart $13.4 million, not including the price of buying the sprawling lot from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, records show. NORA bought the center in 2009 for $4.2 million with the aim of giving neighbors in Pontchartrain Park and Gentilly Woods influence over the commercial hub that has been out of commission since Hurricane Katrina.

The purchase price remains under negotiation. Key to the proposal is NORA's ability to purchase two narrow lots that currently cut off the site from Louisa Drive: a former Chase Bank property and a lot owned by Delta Sigma Theta's local alumnae foundation, said Kevin Hanna, NORA's commercial development director.

Acquisition of those lots would allow Wal-Mart to extend its loading dock to Louisa Drive, plans show. In return, NORA would maintain a 1-acre parcel at Chef Menteur Highway and Press Drive that Hanna said would be well-suited to a restaurant.
In addition to three entrances along Chef Menteur Highway, two one-way driveways are proposed for Press Drive. Wal-Mart also would construct left-turn lanes on both thoroughfares, as well as a sidewalk from Stephen Girard Avenue to allow for pedestrian access to the Gentilly Woods neighborhood, plans show.
The project's schedule "will have to do with how quickly we can lock down Chase and Delta," Hanna said. "Our hope is that some time later this year we can actually sign a development agreement."

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