this sounds like a better plan

but the best option is to tear it all down and rebuild on the existing sites

At least the VA is taking into consideration the potential obliteration of housing stock in the Claiborne>Tulane>Canal St.>N. Galvez tract option, and is seeking alternatives. The old Mercy Hospital site is prime commercial real estate and building there would re-establish health care in a neighborhood that was stripped of its resources. And it can put to rest the angst of the neighborhood concerning conversion of the tract to retail space.

Why is it so freaking hard for the powers-that-be (read PBJ – dude you are the governor, you can use your power and stuff for making the critical decisions like this one) to cut through the crap and resolve this mess?

Even as it forges ahead with plans to build a new hospital in downtown New Orleans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is considering an offer from a real estate company that wants to sell the vacant and deteriorating Lindy Boggs Medical Center in Mid-City.

The company, Victory Real Estate Investments, assembled a vast tract of land after Hurricane Katrina with the idea of developing a strip of big-box stores of the sort that have long chosen the suburbs over the city proper. As part of that land-gathering, it bought Lindy Boggs and applied for permits to demolish it.

Victory did not return several calls for comment on Wednesday, and it was not clear whether its offer to sell the flooded hospital signaled that the project as a whole was on ice. The company recently sold a building not far from Lindy Boggs to the Rouse’s grocery chain, which had been leasing the property from Victory.

The VA said Wednesday that it would give Victory’s proposal serious consideration. The agency has planned for more than two years to build its new hospital just north of downtown New Orleans, where it could share laundry, laboratory and parking with Louisiana State University’s proposed teaching hospital.

The VA continues to label that downtown site as its preferred location for the new hospital, but the agency is required by law to conduct a series of public reviews to consider the impact the hospital development would have on nearby historic property. As part of that so-called Section 106 review, the VA also must consider alternate locations for its hospital.

At one such meeting last week, a senior official from the VA surprised the gathering of preservationists by announcing that the agency had received a proposal from Victory. Donald Orndoff, director of the VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management, confirmed Wednesday that he had had “several discussions” with Victory.

“We are now looking at that as a possible alternative to solve the siting problem for the VA hospital,” Orndoff said. “The preferred site, as announced by our secretary, is still our downtown site adjacent to the proposed LSU hospital, but for the purposes of the historic preservation 106 review, we are looking at this as a viable alternative that will get the same level of consideration that the other sites will get.”

The hospital’s eventual location is among the touchiest political issues in the city right now. Political leaders consider the medical center a critical economic initiative for downtown, so much that the state has agreed to use its eminent domain powers to acquire land for the VA’s portion, while the city has agreed to pay for it. At the same time, the LSU-VA medical center would displace a neighborhood with a considerable stock of historic houses.

The residents who stand to be uprooted have said they do not categorically oppose the medical center, but they have taken issue with the fact that the city and state have barreled ahead with naming a location without giving much attention to other sites. The neighborhood group has suggested the Lindy Boggs site as a logical alternative in recent months.

“This is what we have been asking for a long time. We have constantly said, ‘Hey, there are other sites that are better than tearing down a whole bunch of houses,’ ” said Bobbi Rogers, a neighborhood leader. “We in the neighborhood hope the VA is serious about looking at this site, versus looking at it to fulfill a Section 106 legal requirement. We hope they are genuine in their effort of naming this an alternative site.”

Orndoff said the VA has five options in play. It could rehabilitate its damaged hospital on Perdido Street or tear that building down and build in its place. It also could build just north of downtown, next to LSU; on the campus of Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish; or on the current site of Lindy Boggs, which likely would have to be demolished.

Walter Gallas, the local field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, attended last week’s meeting and said he would support the VA’s consideration of Lindy Boggs because it had the potential to spare a neighborhood.

“We think there are a lot of reasons why the VA ought to look at that site,” Gallas said. “One of them, from our standpoint, is that it’s an industrial rather than a residential site. There is not one house located on that site that would have to be demolished or moved. They would not have to buy out homeowner after homeowner to assemble a large tract of land.”

Virginia Blanque, vice president of the Mid-City Neighborhood Association, said residents who participated in the planning sessions that followed Katrina very much wanted Lindy Boggs returned to use as a hospital.

Charles Zewe, a spokesman for LSU, said the university planned to push ahead with its downtown hospital regardless of where the VA decided to go. However, he said the VA has “been pretty consistent that the downtown site is their preferred site.”

Zewe said the overtures from Victory could inject delays into the planning for the two hospitals if the VA has to conduct an environmental assessment of the Lindy Boggs property, as it already has done for the downtown and Ochsner sites.

~ by maringouin on Thursday, July 31, 2008.

One Response to “this sounds like a better plan”

  1. Thank you maringouin great score!
    Yer’on da’Ladda.

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