LSU Foundation Killed Charity Hospital and Now Controls its Adaptive Reuse

LSU ULI timeline

The "Charity Advisory Services Panel Report Presentation" is out and LSU is racing forward with an aggressive timeline to redevelop Big Charity and the largely abandoned Historic Medical District.

Interestingly, the timeline closely matches the Mayor's race. 

RFQs for Charity will be received in March 2018, a shortlist of developers will be chosen, and by April 2018 the "community engaged RFP process will begin. Between April and June of Next year the developer will be chosen and after June 2018 the development process will begin. There is a slide illustration of the timeline at 1:30:40 here.

 It's been 12 years since the State of Louisiana and LSU declared New Orleans Reverend Avery C. Alexander Charity Hospital - the second oldest continuously operated public hospital in the United States - too damaged to save. At one point it was said that:

"Charity and University hospitals “were issued their death warrant by Katrina and the cataclysmic floods it spawned,” Donald R. Smithburg told the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors."

So today's rollout of recommendations for the reuse of Charity Hospital by partners LSU, the LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation and Urban Land Institute (ULI) was mind boggling for many New Orleanians. It appears the building is now somehow back in the hands of LSU.

"It's like handing the knife to Brutus" - one participant in the audience told Save Charity

The Urban Land Institute is well known for it's 2006 recommendations that much of New Orleans neighborhoods become green space after Hurricane Katrina devasated many parts of the city. It was the Action Plan for New Orleans: The New American City.  It is also famously known as the "green dot" plan as many New Orleanians awoke one morning to find their homes marked with a green dot that signified decision makers had abandoned them in the City's recovery plan.

Fast forward to today. All of the same actors were back to work offering scenarios that put Charity Hospital at the center of New Orleans downtown revitalization. In just 5 days, one of which included interviewing a swath of who's who in the City and State, a panel of ULI land use and urban planning experts slapped together it's vision for New Orleans future. A vision that calls on citizens of the City and State to collaborate and work with one another to bring to fruition a "Spirit of Charity Innovation and TIP District". 

One returning scenario was to move City Hall and the Courts into the million square foot iconic Building. Readers will recall Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plans for repurposing Charity Hospital was made available to the public only after it was discovered that the City’s Property Management Office had submitted a $300 million dollar request to the City Planning Commission during their Capital Budget request hearings - after the fact.

Failure to secure the $100 Million dollars in State Capital Outlay, and strong pushback from civil district court judges who felt they were being strong armed into the Building, killed Mayor Landrieu's legacy project. There were other casualties:

The New Orleans Biodistrict that had agreed to be the bonding authority to allow the Judges to build a new "stand alone" Civil District Courthouse on Duncan Plaza next to the Health Education Authority of Louisiana Parking garage (H.E.A.L.) has been absorbed into the New Orleans Business Alliance and the Mayor's control.

H.E.A.L. was stripped of it's authority and absorbed back into State Government, Duncan Plaza is now under control of the Downtown Development District, and the Charity Hosptal system has been privatized under all new contracts with LSU.

Which begs the question, if there is no longer a Charity Hospital System, shouldn't Charity Hospital New Orleans be returned to the City and community that knows what's best for New Orleanians?

Correction: an earlier version of this blog post said "The building is owned by the LSU Board of Supervisors." That sentence now reads - "It appears the building is now somehow back in the hands of LSU"