Finally, after years in the stockpile of wrecked and shuttered buildings in the state of Louisiana, redemption may be coming soon to our Charity Hospital Building in New Orleans, which was a classic structure in the old days before it was left to molder by Hurricane Katrina. As floodwaters filled its basement in one of the worst storms to hit New Orleans in the last century, doctors and nurses were left to care for the patients, many of them critically ill without the benefit of modern technology.
It took five days to get the patients and staff out of the building and to safety.
As the Charity building was shuttered while locked up, LSU and the state congressional delegation pressured FEMA to increase its damage estimate from $23 million just after the storm to $150 million in 2008 and finally $475 million in 2010. That allowed the state to dislodge an entire neighborhood to build the new $1.2 billion University Medical Center but It didn’t help the poor people get healthcare and eliminated dozens of beds that had been able to treat those with acute mental health problems.
So now the state is finally getting around to doing something with the historic building it abandoned. The initial proposals for redevelopment were secret and the vote to move forward to the lease deal last week was held in Shreveport.
A group called 1532 Tulane Partners Inc. is planning to convert the 20-story one-million square foot art deco structure into a mixed use housing and office complex with a retail space on the first floor. Meanwhile, LSU officials have asked the Greater New Orleans Foundation to lead a public process focused on creating a “Spirit of Charity” district to help spur redevelopment in the neighborhood depressed by the by the presence of an unoccupied “20 story building of blight” owned by the Louisiana State University System.