Thursday, July 04, 2013

The worst kept secret in New Orleans

That rumor that's been rattling around various grapevines about the City Hall move to Charity Hospital being more than just talk took on some form today.
The city's Property Management Department on June 25 requested $300 million - an undefined combination of state capital outlay funds, FEMA hazard mitigation grants and city bonds - to pay for the move to 1610 Tulane Avenue.

"The Civic Center will improve efficiency in city government by locating all city departments within one space and creating a better work space for the civil servants and reduce annual operating costs for maintenance," the request states. "The proposed project will assist in revitalizing adjacent neighborhoods and be within a 3-5 minute radius from the current City Hall."
The proposed move would pretty much just take them around the corner so it's not too radical a departure. Still there are some aesthetic aspects of the current location that would be missed.  Even it is just a block away, Loyola Avenue is still a more prominent location with a more centralized feel to it. The idealized  mid-20th Century civic center at Duncan Plaza with City Hall on one side and the public library on the other will be lost.

Also "lost" will be the cosmically appropriate Perdido Street address for City Hall. Although, if we have to trade in that joke, we can take some consolation in having the seat of city government move to the former location of the city's only level one trauma center.  I suppose that's the best we can hope for.  After all this was the administration we'll always remember for being so sensitive and humorless as to change the city website's url ; a typical Landrieu choice to crush joy in the interest of averting minor embarrassment. (Tip: you can still access the city's website by typing "Cityofno.com" into your browser. Try it sometime.)

Still in all, I'm not opposed to the move, in theory. Charity Hospital is a nice building.  It should be given a prominent purpose deserving of all the grief extended over its post-Katrina vacancy. And since it seems to be the thing to do, maybe they can add some "iconic attractions" to spruce it up a bit. Like a new Brennan's, or another Skywheel on the roof. Feel free to add your own suggestions. Use your imagination. "Follow your NOLA" or whatever.

I know a City Hall and a hospital are different functions but I should also point out that the $300 million requested here is far below LSU's assessment of the cost of repairing the damage to a building it decided to abandon after the flood. It's even below a much publicized preservationist alternative plan to repair the hospital (itself considered a fairly optimistic proposal at the time.)  Anyway it's likely they'll need more. Seems like there's always money in the banana stand convention center. Maybe that's where they'll look. 

1 comment:

mominem said...

Office buildings are a lot cheaper than hospitals.