Agency to seek new Six Flags site redevelopment ideas

The Industrial Development Board has formally scrapped a plan to build an upscale outlet mall at the former Six Flags site and will begin soliciting other ideas for redeveloping the abandoned theme park site in eastern New Orleans by the end of the year, board Chairman Alan Philipson said Tuesday.

Just over a year after the board signed a two-year deal with the joint development team of Provident Realty and DAG Development to turn the site into a shopping center, Philipson said the lease agreement has been terminated.

The IDB, which owns the property, is talking with Aimee Quirk, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s adviser for economic development, to determine how new proposals will be solicited, Philipson said.

By law, the city is required to issue a public request for proposals to solicit ideas for using property it wishes to redevelop, board counsel David Wolf said.

However, the IDB is not a political subdivision and so is not subject to bid laws and other rules that cities and parishes must follow to dispose of surplus property, Wolf said.

With that flexibility, he said, the IDB might consider requesting formal proposals initially from people who have contacted it in recent months to inquire about the status of the Six Flags property. A winner could be selected from that group before going through the city’s procurement process, Wolf said.

“While the board is not trying to do anything that’s not out in the open, for purposes of economic development, it’s really preferable to have a little bit more flexibility than a city might have if it was dealing with wanting to dispose of property,” Wolf said. “We want to get as many proposals as we can. And the city wants the same thing.”

Whatever the process, a call for ideas will be made to developers by the end of the year, Philipson said.

The Six Flags theme park never reopened after it was flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

After several attempts to reopen it as an amusement park failed, the city terminated its lease with a bankrupt Six Flags in 2010 and issued a public plea for redevelopment ideas in late 2011.

At the end of that process in March 2012, a city committee selected the Provident-DAG team’s idea of building a 400,000-square-foot upscale outlet mall and entertainment boardwalk on the 150-acre site.

The team beat out eight other respondents.

Future phases of the plan were projected to include a big-box retailer, amphitheater, sports field, water park and hotel.

The plan began to unravel just four months later when the Howard Hughes Corp., of Dallas, said it was turning the Riverwalk Marketplace in the heart of the city into an outlet mall.

In March, DAG principal David Garcia said the New Orleans market couldn’t support two outlet malls and the Provident-DAG team was conceding the field to the Riverwalk project.

The IDB’s lease agreement with Provident and DAG was officially terminated Oct. 15, a city spokesman said.

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is expected to open in late spring or early summer 2014. It will be anchored by Last Call by Neiman Marcus, the off-price version of the high-end retailer.

Much of the interest in the Six Flags property in recent months has been for temporary use as a film location. Portions of the park are regularly in use by crews filming various movies, including “The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Philipson said he has received about four calls from developers interested in taking a crack at the property, but that he did not engage them in serious talks because of the Provident-DAG contract.

“I think within 45 days we should be able to stimulate action here again,” Philipson said. “I feel comfortable that nobody is going to sit idly aside and not jump on it. That includes us at IDB. That includes the city and Aimee Quirk’s office. It includes the (New Orleans) Business Alliance. Everybody is moving to get this done.”

This time, the evaluation process is expected to include a greater role for the IDB, which — even though it owns the property — had just one representative on the selection committee the last time around. The other four members were part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.

“We made it clear to the city that we want to be involved in the process,” Wolf said.