Healthcare Leads Way to Economic Recovery in New Orleans

By Amalia Otet, Associate Editor New Orleans is slowly advancing toward becoming a medical hub, with the official opening of the state-funded, $47 million BioInnovation Center. The new state-of-the-art building is located between the Greater New Orleans Biosciences Economic Development District and [...]

New Orleans is slowly advancing toward becoming a medical hub, with the official opening of the state-funded, $47 million BioInnovation Center.

The new state-of-the-art building is located between the Greater New Orleans Biosciences Economic Development District and the New Orleans Medical District, on the 1400 block of Canal, and totals 66,000 square feet of wet-lab, office and conference space. According to nola.com, five biotech start-ups and two venture capital firms have already moved into the center, with several other companies on the way. Along with the proposed $1.1 billion University Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs hospital currently under construction, the BioInnovation Center is part of the emerging BioDistrict that is expected to generate approximately 10,000 high-paid jobs directly, and another 7,000 to-10,000 jobs indirectly.

The center features high-class amenities including a flexible 100-person conferencing center with high-tech audiovisual equipment, a 2,000-square-foot retail/food service area open to Canal Street, and an interior atrium with public break areas at each level, all to cater to a wide scope of companies.

Ochsner Health System, one of the largest employers in the area, is also planning a big move – it inked a deal to lease 80,000 square feet in the newly renovated, LEED-certified Benson Tower, bringing its occupancy up to 90 percent, as reported by the Times-Picayune. Between 500 and 750 employees of the Ochsner System are to be relocated to downtown New Orleans by next spring. The 26-story tower was purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson in 2009, along with the New Orleans Centre and adjoining parking garage.

In other news, developer Praveen Kailas was given the green light by the New Orleans City Council to go on with his plans to redevelop the old Woolworth site at the corner of Canal and North Rampart streets into a high-rise apartment building, provided compliance with a few conditions, including height limitations and an increase in space allotted to retail.