by Jeanie Riess
District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell has asked Kishore "Mike" Motwani — the developer proposing to demolish a handful of historic buildings to construct a 21-story hotel at 400 Canal Street — to withdraw his appeal to the New Orleans City Council today. Originally scheduled to be heard at noon, the plan will not go before the council today, according to Cantrell's spokesman, David Winkler-Schmit.
In a statement, Cantrell said she's offered to work with Motwani and his team on a path forward for the project, a path that includes input from residents, preservationists and "other concerned parties."
"I have described this particular area as an armpit," Cantrell said, "because it is truly problematic and deters from present projects — [the new] Riverwalk Outlet Mall, the Ferry Terminal and the World Trade Center. If constructed properly, the site could host a landmark development that would produce millions in tax dollars and spur further development."
Cantrell said her office has worked on the Motwani project extensively. "It has reminded me that the Council has yet to include a preservation plan as part of the city’s Master Plan which was approved in 2010," she wrote. "Considering how much development is now taking place and the large number of historic buildings that exist in New Orleans, we need to find a way to incorporate new construction in to the fabric of our historic sites. This is crucial and I hope over the next three months that this group will not only solve the Canal Street issue, but will provide a roadmap for a much needed preservation plan."
According to Nicole Webre, a spokesperson for some of the people involved in trying to scuttle the development, the City Council has received 133 letters in the last week urging the project be stopped.