On Wednesday June 11, Mayor Landrieu announced that he was rescinding his proposal to readapt the Charity Building for use as a Civic Center.
“I made this decision with my eyes wide open, and with the best interest of the entire city at the forefront. Simply put, we cannot afford the project at this time, given our other critical needs.”
The decision to prioritize "critical needs" before political dreams is laudable - as was the decision in 2010 when the Mayor endorsed building a new Civil District Courthouse on Duncan Plaza - and it is encouraging to hear that the Mayor's eyes are once again wide open.
Speaking of the Civil District Courthouse....
State Legislation authorizes the City and/or the BioDistrict to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the State that allows for use of State owned land on Duncan Plaza that fronts Loyola Ave. to be donated to the City for the purposes of building a new courthouse and/or municipal complex.
HB 1206 - pending signature by the Governor - says:
5. Authorize the commissioner of administration to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement relative to certain property in New Orleans or to transfer such property either for the appraised value or in exchange for value equivalent to the appraised value, except that it removes the authority for the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget to create a committee to provide a recommendation to the commissioner of administration regarding the transfer of the property sites.
The Mayor also announced that increased estimates in construction costs for the "Charity as a Civic Center" project contributed to his decision to withdraw the proposal. It is not clear why the City didn't just look at the RMJM Hillier report. Costs of renovating the building were accurately outlined in that study. Also, there were four other less expensive proposals Mayor Landrieu originally considered for City Hall.
In an interview with Fox8, well-known architect Pres Kabacoff stated that he doesn't know of any development plans for Charity in the future. It is not clear if he is including himself in that statement and it is not clear whether or not he has read the plan put forth by Save Charity Hospital to readapt the Charity Hospital Building as an Facility dedicated to inpatient mental health care, as well as for the advancement of mental health, medical and clinical research. [See attached]
The Mayor's decision puts the ball back in the State's court to find a good adaptive reuse. The LSU System maintains control over over the health of the Building and the Building itself.
However, according to Federal section 106 requirements, it was always the State's obligation to put the Building back into use through a 3 year marketing process to find a developer.
In was reported recently in a NOLA.com exclusive, that:
""Under its accord with FEMA over the hospital complex, the state's Department of Administration agreed to complete a marketing study and spend three years shopping for a developer or a plan to revivify Charity. According to a May 21 letter from FEMA, that three-year period ends Sept. 7, "at which time (the state government) may dispose of Charity as it sees fit."
[Sandra] Stokes [of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana] has disagreed with that timeline, arguing that the state stopped marketing Charity as soon as Landrieu began to consider it as a possible new City Hall. When the marketing stopped, the clock on that three-year period should have, too, leaving the state obligated to continue marketing Charity beyond the summer, she said Thursday (June 11).""
At a BioDistrict Board Meeting on Friday 13, 2014, CAO Andy Kopplin maintained that "in 2010 the State did do an Request For Interest [RFI]" but there was no interest despite a $20 million dollar incentive by the State. He indicated that City told the State that the incentive needed to be at least $100 million dollars in order to get a developer to jump on the Building and that their prediction proved right.
To date: whether or not that RFI was ever executed is unclear but SaveCharityHospital.com will keep readers posted.
The aforementioned NOLA.com article says:
""A Department of Administration spokeswoman said the agency has no plans to demolish the building and that the search for potential developers will continue.
"As new plans are considered, we hope to continue working with Mayor Landrieu and the City of New Orleans to find an appropriate use for this site," the agency said in a statement.""
Hopefully - in this next round - the process of determining what Charity Hospital will be in the future will be a more democratic, transparent and accountable process with residents at the table so that our needs and desires for what we want done with OUR Building, and potentially OUR money, are heard and respected.