Palas Hotel will implode July 22

Reporting on the University Medical Center Board meeting yesterday.

[Agenda attached]

During the public comments portion of the agenda, the following questions were asked:

  • Did the State perform all of the archaeological and environmental assessment studies according to the full programmatic requirements and where can people obtain copies of them?
  • When will the strategic part of the business plan that was promised last fall to the Joint Budget Committee - in order to obtain approval for construction - be completed so we can know how the new UMC academic medical center cash flow without any extra help from the State?
  • VAMC representatives stated during their presentation at the last UMC board meeting that their new hospital will cost 707 Million dollars to activate.  How much will it cost to activate the new UMC Hospital given the fact that enormous amounts of money will be necessary to repatriate staff and patients and promote the hospital to medical tourists? - A key component of the business plan?
  • The dismantling of the Palas Hotel piece by piece is a plan to avoid asbestos contamination when the building is imploded, yet the debris they are removing is often picked up by the wind from inside the building and spreading around the area.  Is this method of abatement within environmental laws?

While no answers were given regarding a strategic plan or activation costs, Tom Rish - the State official overseeing Skanska/'Mapp - [construction manager at risk] - said they did do archaeological studies  but did not say if studies met full programmatic requirements.  He said DEQ is overseeing all work being done on the Palas Hotel site.

Earlier this year, State Facility Planning and Control had to ask for an additional million plus dollars to remove the windows from the Palas Hotel because they discovered asbestos.  Now they are removing the skin also – dismantling it piece by piece.

The public relations, marketing and advertising group Bright Moments have been brought in to inform the community about how to protect themselves from dust and environmental impacts that will happen when the Grand Old Palace Hotel is imploded on July 22.  The contractors handling the demolition are Controlled Demolition Inc. and Contaminant Control Inc.

Also during the presentation updating board members on construction of the new hospital, the audience learned that the FEMA money for the contents of Charity Hospital that was said to be a done deal, is not a done deal.  Apparently there is some discrepancy between State and Federal FEMA representatives over compensation. Save Charity Hospital readers will recall that part of the money to pay for building the new hospital in the business plan that was presented to the State last fall in order to get the "all clear" for construction was that FEMA money.   

The other part of the plan that made up the difference for lack of funding was 132 million dollars that was to come from the Louisiana Physicians Foundation.  According to State officials, there is still no contract solidifying that agreement though there is a "commitment".

Let's hope for New Orleanians who have lived without a world class medical teaching facility for almost 8 years since it was shuttered by the State and LSU - and will not see one for at least 2 more years - that this commitment is honored!