Waking up and smelling the devastation

Unfortunately, it took the complete razing of a neighborhood for the national media to begin paying serious attention to the tragedy playing out in Lower Mid-City.  But now that attention has shifted, it's encouraging to see just how well some observers understand the significance of what has played out.

Photo via: http://www.insidethefootprint.blogspot.com

In a previous post, SaveCharityHospital.com referenced links to some earlier national media stories.

Here's Philip Langdon at New Urban News, a national outlet for urban planners:

After all that New Orleans has suffered in the five-plus years since Hurricane Katrina, who would think that yet another of the Crescent City’s character-rich neighborhoods — one that had recently been repaired with federal dollars — would be ripped apart, this time at the behest of the state and federal governments?

It’s shocking, but an enormous volume of gratuitous destruction is under way in a city better known for celebrating than subverting its architectural character. New Orleans is at this moment sacrificing a distinctive working-class neighborhood to land-hungry medical institutions that insist on huge footprints for their future campuses.

Since last spring, more than 60 buildings, many of them charming little shotgun houses that contribute to a National Register historic district, have been demolished so that a new Veterans Affairs hospital can be built on 30 acres cleared of its inhabitants.

The City, State and Federal governments are putting New Orleans through some major contortions to turn it into a "model 21st century city". In other words, they are putting a lot of time and energy to force a square peg into a round hole. By placing a suburban-style hospital complex on top of a distinctive urban environment, will New Orleans still be New Orleans?

In the 5 years that it has taken to entertain LSU, GNOBEDD and the State's planning and design teams, we could have re-opened Charity Hospital as a vibrant, refurbished, modern facility that meets the programmatic needs of the proposed UMC hospital.

Blinded by the mere thought of "over a billion dollars," local, state, and federal officials have abdicated their responsibility to do what's best for our city and our region in terms of dollars spent in the name of health-care.  Economic development doesn't justify forgetting all other interests in a complex city.  Economic development projects don't always pan out as promised.  And economic development projects have negative externalities - consequences like the senseless devastation that's now become clear in Lower Mid-City.  Kids at Priestley Charter School should not have to switch schools mid-school year until the UMC Board can show it has the funds to build its new hospital.  Many residents, sadly, will not even be forced from their homes to make way for the UMC Hospital, but instead for the vague possibility of future expansion alone.