The “Save WTC NOLA” campaign pushed for redevelopment rather than demolition of this unique mid-century-modern building in downtown New Orleans.
Originally known as the International Trade Mart, the 33-story World Trade Center (WTC) building was completed in 1967 to serve as a highly visible symbol of the city’s longtime role as a global port and to encourage growth of the port in the modern era.¹ In addition to its strategic location near the Mississippi River at the foot of Canal Street, which is the city’s historic commercial heart, the building’s cruciform shape corresponds to the four cardinal points as an embodiment of the port’s international importance. It was designed by renowned architect Edward Durell Stone and is considered a mature example of his work in the New Formalism style.²
After several prosperous decades, the City-owned WTC began to lose its tenants in the lean years after the 1980s oil bust, and by the late 1990s the City was looking for potential redevelopment opportunities.³ When concrete soffits fell from the top floor in 2011, the conversation turned to demolition.⁴ In 2013, when the City called for redevelopment proposals, one of the frontrunners proposed the demolition of the WTC to make way for a new “iconic” structure that would allegedly boost tourism.⁵ In response, Gatehouse Capital, one of the real estate development teams hoping to convert the skyscraper into a hotel and apartment building, started a citywide “Save WTC NOLA” campaign in May 2013 to rally against demolition and to raise awareness of the building’s architectural and cultural significance.⁶ The Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Preservation Resource Center, and DOCOMOMO US, among other groups, supported the developers’ preservation effort.⁷After months of debate, the City decided that the building should not be demolished and chose Gatehouse Capital’s proposal.⁸ In 2014, the team successfully nominated the WTC to the National Register of Historic Places so that the building would be eligible for federal historic preservation tax incentives. However, lease negotiations fell through and the City called for a new round of proposals in late 2014.⁹ In March 2015, the City chose Four Seasons with Cambridge & Co. and Woodward Interests to redevelop the site as a hotel and condominiums.¹⁰
1. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “International Trade Mart,” National Register of Historic Places, June 9, 2014. 2. Ibid.
3. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “International Trade Mart”; and Rebecca Mowbray, “City of New Orleans Considers demolishing the World Trade Center,” nola.com, February 4, 2010.
4. Rebecca Mowbray, “New Orleans World Trade Center mishap may slow lease termination plan,” nola.com, November 16, 2011.
5. Bruce Eggler, “New Orleans committee to evaluate proposals for former World Trade Center site on Tuesday,” nola.com, July 1, 2013.
8. Richard A. Webster, “World Trade Center lease negotiations to begin with Gatehouse,” nola.com, September 30, 2013.
9. Katherine Sayre, “New Orleans’ former World Trade Center building lures 11 new proposals,” nola.com, November 19, 2014.
10. Katherine Sayre, “New Orleans World Trade Center: Four Seasons developer picked as top choice for city lease,” nola.com, March 24, 2015.