Benson Tower was originally developed by the DeBartolo Corporation in the late 1980’s as the New Orleans Centre and is strategically situated at 1450 Poydras Street between the Superdome and the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. The office tower component of the mixed-use property, which was formerly referred to as Dominion Tower, was operating at a nearly 90% occupancy rate before Hurricane Katrina and was home to such prominent local and regional tenants as Dominion Oil & Gas, McDermott, and Crescent Bank & Trust. The remaining portion of the property was operated as an upscale retail shopping center with a food court and an adjoining parking garage.
While the property did not flood during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Dominion Tower and the New Orleans Centre sustained significant wind damage, and the prior owner elected to vacate the property in lieu of renovating and re-tenanting it. The property remained vacant, with the exception of the former Lord & Taylor building which sustained minimal damage and was repaired and leased on a temporary emergency basis to the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans following the damage to their prior facility at Charity Hospital.
The efforts of the State of Louisiana and Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, to rebuild, renovate, and revitalize the area surrounding the Superdome in the years following Hurricane Katrina yielded a unique partnership. Through Tom Benson’s leadership, Dominion Tower and the New Orleans Centre were purchased in 2009, and the office tower was put back into commerce in 2011 as the newly renovated Benson Tower.
What made the entire project financially viable was the State of Louisiana’s commitment to rent a significant portion of Benson Tower in lieu of making annual inducement payments to the New Orleans Saints and to consolidate the State offices in Benson Tower instead of pursuing a more expensive plan to build its own office building. The State of Louisiana also leased a portion of the former retail portion of the property and committed to redeveloping it into an entertainment district to complement and build upon the synergies of the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena. To date, the State has developed Club XLIV and the hugely popular outdoor entertainment plaza of Champions Square. All of these commitments, along with other local and federal programs, allowed this important piece of economic development for the City of New Orleans to proceed and stimulate further redevelopment in the Poydras St. corridor including the reopening of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.