Year in Review: A look back at 2022’s biggest stories

After more than two years of extreme uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 began with the promise of a return to business as usual. Masking and social distancing fell by the wayside, allowing businesses large and small to relax precautions and invite customers back inside.

It’s tough to say 2022 sustained that sense of normalcy, though. Shoppers felt the pinch of inflation at grocery stores and online, retailers continued to struggle with supply chain issues, and soaring gas prices in the first half of the year put a damper on shipping and travel.

The housing market plummeted back from an extremely strong run as the Fed began hiking interest rates. Many young buyers quickly got cold feet, especially if the 2022 hikes were the first they had encountered as adults. The collapse of insurance companies statewide and the withdrawal of even more put many Louisiana residents in untenable financial straits, further shuttering the real estate market.

There were bright spots, however, that will pay dividends throughout 2023. In Jefferson Parish, Veterans Boulevard continues a growth spurt anchored by the Clearview City Center project. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center expansion will redefine a major chunk of New Orleans for decades to come. And drastically lower gas prices are lifting everyone’s spirits as the year ends.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories CityBusiness covered in 2022.

Construction and Development

In April, the building housing popular Uptown grocer Whole Foods went on the market for $36.3 million. The 30,300 square feet building at 5600 Magazine St. sits on 1.65 acres within an Historic Urban Neighborhood Business District. Robert Hand of Louisiana Commercial Realty said the listing was the most expensive building for sale in Louisiana.

The Whole Foods location sold in September for $31.4 million ($1,037/square foot) to DK WFNO LLC, a New York-based domestic LLC registered to Debra Kalimian, of A&R Kalimian, a privately held real estate investment, construction and property management firm. Whole Foods reaffirmed its commitment to remaining in the popular location.

Back in January, Copeland Tower in Metairie reopened, christening itself as an “active adult” community in the process. The Copeland Tower Suites hotel at 2601 Severn Ave., which until May 2021 had been a Comfort Inn, reopened as Copeland Tower Living. The development, geared toward older adults with active lifestyles, offers 95 one-bedroom, unfurnished units that are 782 square feet each and have a full kitchen and in-unit washer and dryer. Amenities at the site include a restaurant, fitness center, spa, hair and nail salon, a heated pool and roughly 8,800 square feet of entertainment and common space. The Copeland family is also helping to develop a senior living facility in St. Tammany Parish.

Discount grocer Aldi gained a foothold in Louisiana this year. Aldi opened its first New Orleans-area store in Slidell in June at 137 Northshore Blvd., its first location in the metro area and third in Louisiana. In February, Aldi opened its first Louisiana location in Lafayette at 4518 Ambassador Caffery Parkway. It has since added a second store in New Iberia at 1102 East Admiral Doyle Drive.

Aldi is scheduled to open Oct. 20 at 1910 W. Airline Hwy. as part of the company’s aggressive nationwide growth in recent years. It is opening 150 stores this year, with around 20 of those in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Overall, Louisiana is expected to add over 12,200 new jobs by 2024. The jobs would stem from billions of dollars in industrial construction, led by a $13.2 billion Venture Global LNG export terminal in Plaquemines Parish, and major investments in coastal restoration and flood control projects. But many are dependent on whether numerous other projects materialize, most of them industrial developments outside New Orleans.

The New Orleans area “has a good ways to go” before recovering the 112,000 jobs it lost due to the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, according to the report. The region had recovered only 61% of those jobs by June 2022, according to a report by economist Loren Scott. Hurricane Ida in 2021 provided a 34,200-job setback that was recovered in January 2022, it said.

Riverfront Revamp

The main job creator in New Orleans is set to be the planned massive expansion of the Convention Center. After more than a year of negotiations, the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority Board in September signed a development agreement for River District Neighborhood Investors LLC to move forward on a $1 billion mixed-use development and entertainment district on 39 acres of riverfront land adjacent to the Convention Center.

The project is expected to provide 9,000 construction jobs and 5,900 permanent jobs.

The 2.4 million square feet of mixed-use space will include 900 mixed-income housing units, with 450 of those affordable and workforce housing; 400,000 square feet of office space; and 115,000 square feet of retail development, dining options, entertainment venues and cultural attractions.

A 5,000-square foot civil rights exhibition is planned for the Convention Center’s Mosaic Room while negotiations continue for a permanent Civil Rights Museum. The project also will include a redevelopment of the Market Street Power Plant, which was purchased in February for an undisclosed price by RDNI, composed of Elmwood-based Lauricella Land Company, Brian Gibbs Development, Dallas-based Cypress Equities and others.

Elsewhere along the river, work continues on a $34 million renovation at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The aquarium renovation began last year and will eventually add 17,000 square feet of new exhibit space inside. Another 2,500 square feet of the property’s breezeway will be enclosed to create a shared public lobby. Audubon Nature Institute executive vice president and chief operating officer Kyle Burks said the biggest change visitors will see is the removal of the IMAX theater to make way for a permanent home for the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, which had been located in the U.S. Customs House at the corner of Canal and North Peters streets. It closed in 2020 as Audubon looked for ways to stem revenue loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next to the aquarium, work continues on a $43.5 million Canal Street ferry terminal. An open-air building with perforated metal panels will front Canal Street. Stairs and an elevator will take riders to a covered pedestrian bridge that will give them a safe and fast way to bypass the railroad tracks. The bridge will connect to another set of stairs and an elevator that will take them to the climate-controlled terminal where riders can wait for the ferry and avoid inclement weather. A canopy at a currently uncovered plaza between the terminal building and the wharf will cover passengers lining up and boarding the water vessels.

The project broke ground in November 2020 and is expected to take two years to finish. Once completed, the new terminal will create a seamless riverfront, connecting the Audubon Aquarium to Spanish Plaza, which recently wrapped up a $7.5 million facelift.

Real Estate

The New Orleans-area residential market hasn’t been a typical one in 2022, according to local realtors, but the picture still looked pretty good for sellers. The most recent numbers from the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors show new listings in the metro area increased nearly 87% in September from the same month in 2021.

Closed sales increased nearly 11% from September 2021. Houses sat on the market longer this September – rising from 29 to 35 days, a 20.7% increase from September 2021. The average sales price of homes remained relatively flat – $333,366 compared to $336,227 in September 2021.

Year-to-date through September 2022, new listings increased 5.7% in the metro area; closed sales were down 8.4%; days on the market dropped from 37 to 31; average sales prices rose from $319,192 to $342,104; and the Housing Affordability Index dropped from 133 to 97, a 27.1% decrease, according to NOMAR.

In a real estate transaction destined to offer endless entertainment to area residents, the former owners of Laser Tag of Metairie acquired Furniture Mart at 2421 Veterans Blvd. near Home Depot. The new $10 million entertainment center will be named Game On Social Hub.

When complete, it will have 12 bowling lanes, with four of those VIP lanes in a signature VIP lounge. Other attractions will include an 8,000-square-foot arcade that has over 100 video and redemption games, a prize store, a multi-story laser tag arena, axe throwing, a restaurant and large bar with big-screen TVs for sports games. The company will invest over $10 million into the entertainment center and create more than 100 jobs, most of which will be filled locally.

The $450 million facelift of the Caesars Superdome remains on schedule to be completed by the time New Orleans hosts the Super Bowl in 2025, and Saints fans experienced the beginning of those renovations in the otherwise disappointing 2021-22 football season.

In addition to finishing 12 field level suites with food and beverage service, a club behind the seats and easy street access, additional accomplishments included better disbursement of ADA patron seats and new viewing decks for those in the 200 and 500 levels for better visibility of the entire building. The new platforms created a “standing deck” behind ADA guests for anyone to easily see the whole field and scoreboard as they walk to restrooms and concession areas.

The original $450 million in improvements was announced in 2019 by Gov. John Bel Edwards, aimed at keeping the Saints in New Orleans through 2055. The Saints and the state are working to create an agreement locking the NFL club in New Orleans through 2035, with four five-year extension options through 2055 if the full Superdome renovations are completed.


New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2022 surfaced a slew of young startups geared to boost the local technology economy for years to come. Jamm Around was named the top winner of IDEApitch at NOEW 22. The startup, co-founded by Brent Craige, Donovan Williams and Marlon Butler, uses an app to connect musical artists so they can collaborate and sell music services to each other. According to Jamm Around’s website, the company was created after the three tried to assemble a team of New Orleans music artists for a collaboration album.

Cluey Consumer and Iconic Moments were named semi-finalists in the competition. Cluey Consumer is a data-driven platform that empowers socially conscious consumers. Iconic Moments is an NFT marketplace for more than 450,000 cultural institutions, such as museums, around the globe. The total prize rose to $750,000 this year thanks to investors contributing additional funding, including Patrick Comer, founder of Lucid, and Scott Wolfe, founder of Levelset. Lucid and Levelset sold in 2021 for $500 million and $1.1 billion, respectively, in a record year for local startup transactions.

A New Orleans-based Web3 technology company called Gripnr secured an initial $2.5 million investment round in April. The funding will help Gripnr design the gameplay, build the on-chain gaming platform and launch the genesis NFT collection. In addition, they plan to finance and support the release of more tabletop games and other game designers and artists who want to utilize the company’s new protocol.

Another new local startup, Prokeep, is the first and only communications and commerce platform built exclusively for distributors. Since the New Orleans-born software startup launched to commercial clients in 2018, it has served more than 1,000 distributors who have used Prokeep for over 5.5 million conversations. The Prokeep platform, which enables a branch’s main phone number to accept communication, continues to evolve from feedback from distributors to streamline information such as ordering, deliveries and pickups – all in one workplace.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *