New Orleans Centre – downtown shopping
New Orleans Centre
A shopping mall in the CBD? Why not? In 1988, developers opened a mall right next to the (then) Louisiana Superdome. Several new office buildings popped up on the section of Poydras Street between Loyola and S. Claiborne Avenues. Those buildings enticed many companies to leave the “old CBD” buildings with lower rent and easy parking.
There’s always a catch. In this case, it was not enough lunch places. The po-boy places were back in the “old CBD”. The Krauss Luncheonette was a schlep down Loyola. Mother’s was (and still is) all the way down on Tchoupitoulas and Poydras. The neighborhood needed a bunch of food places in a small footprint. The solution? A food court.
The Mall in 1988
New Orleans Centre opened in 1988. The development included not only three floors of shopping, but a fourteen-story office tower. The mall featured two national department stores, Lord and Taylor and Macy’s. New Orleanians knew the stores as New York icons. So, the novelty of New York coming to New Orleans drew suburban shoppers back downtown. That was something Holmes and Maison Blanche never could accomplish!
New Orleans Centre started with approximately fifty stores. There was room for 150. The mall expanded to over 100 stores at its peak.
The Mall and Da Dome
New Orleans Centre offered an interesting opportunity for the Superdome. By 1988, the National Football League understood that Da Dome was the best place for the league’s championship game. While internal politics made designating the stadium the permanent home of the Super Bowl. Many league staffers argued for just that, anyway.
The Superdome presented the NFL with a tempting feature: a hotel, right next door. So, the Hyatt Regency Hotel enabled the league personnel to literally walk to work. They used the bridge connecting New Orleans Center and the stadium. No taxis to the suburbs. No public transit. Just get up, go downstairs, and walk into the Superdome.
The sports network set up shop in New Orleans Centre for the 1990, 1997, and 2002 Super Bowls. Setting up in the mall gave ESPN the Superdome as a backdrop behind the anchor desk. Other cities just couldn’t match the visuals. So, the mall gave ESPN the win, no matter which network actually broadcast the game.
The primary tenant of the accompanying office building was Consolidated Natural Gas (CNG) Producing Company. The company moved from One Canal Place in 1989. The company, now known as Dominion Oil, occupied the seventh through fourteenth floors of the tower.
The mall declined in the early 2000s. Lord and Taylor closed at that time. The management company leased the nearly-empty third floor to WGNO-TV. Katrina was the final nail in its coffin. The Superdome was a mess, the Hyatt suffered terribly, and the mall flooded. A medical clinic, operated from the Lord and Taylor space, until University Hospital resumed service.
The late Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, bought New Orleans Centre and the office tower in 2009. After the Saints won the NFL Championship in the 2009-2010 season, they planned major changes for the mall. They demolished all of the mall with the exception of the Macy’s footprint. They converted the space into an open-air venue. Champions Square hosts pregame activities for Saints home games, as well as concerts and other events.