New Orleans' Lakefront prime for a wave of development

Don Ames
April 28, 2017 - 8:47 am

After years of neglect, and the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans' Lakefront seems to be surging back.

Local real estate expert, Wade Ragas, says the Lakefront, from east of Elysian Fields as far east Little Woods, has long been an overlooked and underdeveloped asset.

"There's only so much waterfront available in the New Orleans area," says Ragas. "And, for a variety of reasons, we haven't fully utilized the waterfront in Jefferson. So, that leaves the opportunity for Orleans."  

Now, it appears the opportunity to restore the lakefront as a major recreation destination is being grasped by a number of developers and individuals.

"We're beginning to see more in the way of restaurants, but not, necessarily the exact old site of West End where there's more storm surge risk," Ragas says.

The new restaurants have opened on the Lakefront, near the Orleans Marina, and at the Lakefront Airport. At least two more are in the in a shelter building on Lakeshore Drive, and another in the Lake Vista Community Center.

Ragas sees much more potential for the 5-mile stretch of waterfront.

"In other cities, there's a mixture of entertainment, marina, high rise apartments or condominiums...usually some sand beach area," he says.  

Sand beach areas along the lakefront would include, not only Ponchartrain Beach, but also Lincoln Beach to the east.

"When you talk about sand and amusements and possibly additional restaurants, the Lincoln Beach site has a lot of opportunity. It's just taking time for New Orleans to reinvigorate Eastern New Orleans," says Ragas. "I think it's been burdened by the slow recovery of New Orleans East."

The biggest single project along the lakefront is a $12 million entertainment complex on 19 acres at South Shore Harbor Marina and the former Bally's Riverboat Casino site. The entertainment facility is being developed by Tipitina's owners Roland and Mary von Kurnatowski. 'Lakeshore Landing' will host events and offer restaurants, an amphitheater for live music, a marina store and fuel dock, and the boathouse for the last operational World War II patrol torpedo boat, the PT-305, which is now open to the public for rides.

Breakwall beautification projects and opening Lakeshore Drive to two-way traffic have been attracting more recreational users, making the area ripe for commercial development.

Ragas sees no reason the Lakefront should not become a New Orleans gem. 

"In other markets, things with sunsets, environments for concerts, sailboat dockages and condominiums are usually very successful. So, I would expect at some point in the future, this too will be successful."

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