The Board of Commissioners of the Algiers Development District (ADD) has voted to sever its January 2015 Master Development Agreement with Vista Louisiana, LLC, the selected developer for New Orleans Riverside at Historic Algiers, site of New Orleans Federal City. The unanimous Board vote centered around frustration with Vista’s repeated failure to comply with important provisions of the Master Development Agreement’s Performance Expectations.
Especially troubling for ADD Board members and members of the Federal City Joint Development Committee (JDC), an appointed community body designated to provide advice and guidance on the development of Federal City, were Vista’s unwillingness to disclose its ownership and primary investors, inability or unwillingness to submit required proof of financing in place and comprehensive business plans for each aspect of the project, and over-reliance on unsecured historic tax credits as potential funding sources to redevelop the 120-acre former military base. In discussions leading up to the Board’s vote to sever, members pointed out Vista’s claim during the RFP process to have in excess of $200 million in immediately available funds, as one strong reason why Vista’s proposal received approval from the Board.
“ADD and our Joint Development Committee have spent much of the last 19 months making every good faith effort to work with and encourage Vista to meet its obligations under the Master Development Agreement. Regrettably, Vista’s failure to abide by the deadlines we have set and in some cases, generously extended, and to disregard what we view to be critical issues of transparency and compliance left us with no choice but to sever our Agreement and move on,” said State Senator Troy Carter of Algiers, Chair of the Algiers Development District.
“In the final analysis, our Boards unanimously and unambiguously chose protection of the public’s assets and hard earned tax dollars over our collective determination to move Federal City forward as quickly as possible. None of us, in good conscience, could put the need for speed ahead of doing the right thing with the right people,” Carter said.
Vista Louisiana, LLC and ADD entered into a Master Development Agreement on March 2, 2015, whereby Vista was awarded rights to develop public areas of the former military base into a mixed use community of retail shopping, single and multi-family housing, recreational facilities, dining and entertainment venues and possible housing for tourists and others visiting southeast Louisiana. On September 1st, following repeated efforts by ADD and the project’s Joint Development Committee to obtain necessary information and assurances, ADD legal counsel issued a Notice of Deficiency advising Vista of several contractual deficiencies it needed to successfully resolve by September 30th. Vista’s failure to take adequate steps to cure those deficiencies led to ADD’s October 11th Board action to terminate its relationship with Vista.
Simultaneously, the ADD Board authorized its law firm, Jones Walker, LLP, to file a declaratory judgment action and take other necessary legal action against Vista, LLC for its repeated failures to cure defaults of the Agreement within the stipulated cure period.
“Our task now is to take a new look at what promises to be a transformative project for the City’s west bank and an economic engine for the community as a whole, to identity suitable partners who share our commitment to transparency and cooperation, and to put this project in front of as many qualified and interested developers as possible,” said Carter. “The community expects and deserves nothing less than an exemplary project that does great credit to the legacy of this historic site.”