Squandered Heritage Vintage


I think a lot of New Orleanians are pinning some big hopes on the building of the LSU/VA Complex. I know people who live in that area and from what I can tell they are seeking a just and inclusive process in this effort. They too would like to see a process that resembles transparency.

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One commenter supplied a little more information about the Section 106 and the E/P

This notice indicates that the VA is moving to complete the NEPA review before it begins the NHPA 106 review. This is problematic because a completed NEPA document will have an imposing influence on the 106 review.

So it seems in the creation of a document that reaches the conclusion of No Significant Impact would lead to a less exhaustive 106 review.

However, if it is an Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision (EIS/ROD), a document that more meaningfully addresses adverse impacts and mitigation, it will mean a more thorough, more meaningful 106 review.

    Which one would hope would lead to an investigation in to just compensation and perhaps the relocation of some of the architecturally significant homes into other parts of the City which have lost so many homes.

2314-16 Cleveland

Since we have been left with a situation of overstressed to unavaliable Health Care any discussion about building a Hospital is met with a desperate desire for progress, but it would seem that the games being played here have been played before..here is what another commenter has said.

Before readers assume that the original German, Irish, American and African-American families left the neighborhood because they didn’t care, they should acquaint themselves with the urban renewal projects of the 1950s, 60s and 70s that were enacted without neighborhood involvement and which were at first filled with empty promises then typified by empty or ill-kept commercial and municipal buildings. The neighborhoods pre- Katrina decline is directly connected to more than 50 years of botched urban planning, much of which was done without meaningful community input.

Section 106 is that portion of the National Historic Preservation Act which requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their actions on historic properties. (“Historic properties” are those historical or archaeological resources that are listed in or determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.) Agencies must make a good faith effort to avoid adversely affecting historic properties.


While many of us feel secure that our Neighborhood is safe from a project such as this, we should be aware and informed when it comes to the Public process that dictates the decisions made, the very least should be an informed,honest respectful and just public process.

LSU/VA footprint

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • BillygoatPark

    This is not the first time this general area has faced the issue of eminent domain. More than 50 years ago, with federal funds and under the guise of “slum clearance,” the city and HANO got busy in the area bounded by Claiborne, Tulane, Broad and Poydras.

    “…Now as to the question of impeding the progress of our city, neither I nor anyone else I know would mind personal sacrifice for our community’s growth and progress, but we deny that our sacrifice would in the least help in that direction. Let any honest-hearted and fair-minded citizen visit this section and then ask this question: Aren’t there hundreds of thousands of square feet of area laying almost unused in the business and industrial districts? Why not use them first and then, when our city’s growth is such that all other space has been used up, then and only then the argument that our area is needed for the progress of our city will be sensible, logical, honest and acceptable to us…”‘
    — Nick Persich
    (in a letter to the New Orleans States, 15 November 1952)

    In 1952, HANO and the city announced a plan to alleviate “slum” housing in the area bounded by Claiborne, Broad, Poydras and Tulane. Federal funds were acquired and plans were announced to turn the entire area into an exclusively industrial and commercial zone. Nearly 1500 people were to be displaced.

    In the November 8, 1952 edition of the New Orleans States, there appeared the article “Battle Looms on Tulane Ave. Redevelopment.” In that article, it was stated that, to accomplish the project, the Housing Authority of New Orleans would have to acquire, by purchase or seizure, all residential property in the area and most commercial property. According to HANO chairman Olin Linn, some commercial interests would be permitted to stay if they fit with the re-use plan. Homeowners could bid on their old property but would not be allowed erect industrial or commercial buildings. The poor would be relocated to housing projects while homeowners were to be offered the equivalent of their existing homes.

    Among the people living and working in the affected area were the Castrogiovannis, proprietors of the Big Train Bar (aka Nick’s). Said Nick Castrogiovanni: “We worked here hard day and nights for 33 years to have something for our old age, my wife and I, and now they want to take it away from us. If the city doesn’t like my place the way it is, I’ll fix it up. I’ve had blueprints on remodeling it for a year now, but we don’t want them to take it away.”
    Said Mrs. Castrogionanni: “My three children were born right in this house above the store. All we’ve ever gotten is enough to educate and clothe them. Now that we can see daylight, we may lose it all.” …

    By the summer of 1953, the area bounded by Claiborne, Tulane, Broad and Poydras experienced a tremendous amount of demolitions, followed by commerical and industrial development.

  • Amy

    Thank you Squandered Heritage for this thoughtful article. I am concerned about so many aspects of this project.

    I keep hearing that the new LSU project is a vanity project of primarily one high level bureaucrat and complicit others who have their own reasons for wanting the new development which have very little to nothing to do with serving the health care needs of New Orleanians.

    I would like to see addressed the ‘walmart development mentality’ of constructing a massive new bldg while a discarded one sits vacant nearby. What is to become of the former sites? Are they to be sold to for-profit developers?

    Also I see the way they have done some of the arranging is to have the City seize the properties and then turn over to the State/Feds. Having worked on an intense expropriation lawsuit, I believe this means the residents will get less money as the City has no money. The residents need to be made whole. How can you make families whole after you’ve demolished their whole community and personal histories?

    I am familiar with the remediation and rehabbing of the American Can, Plaza Tower, and Falstaff Buildings and other Brownfields. Why can’t this type of ‘to the skeleton’ renovation be done to the existing buildings to save land and new construction costs and re-open the services most expiditiously? Has a side-by-side analysis been done? Are they published online anywhere?

    I would encourage anyone concerned to look at the expropriation cases for the convention center, where the Pickery and other very historic, lovingly restored buildings were expropriated and torn down in a great hurry and for a great expense for a center that was never built. (Not because of Katrina- the state atty’s bungled the bid process and were tied up in expensive litigation for so long the price of the job rose beyond the budget) This is the overgrown land on Tchoupitoulas. There were so many things wrong with the way the state approached the expropriation. It was really sad to see the buildings be torn down, and sadder still to see the land never used since for anything other than marshalling the National Guard when before it had an independent theater, furniture building and fine carpentry shops, a corner bar, a gallery, fine arts and sculpture studios. One example of how things were done wrong is how their study used pre-9-11 tourism growth numbers after 9-11, and we were able to show that the market consultant made his entire living travelling around the country advising convention centers to expand based on the fact of the need to stay in competition with others who are ever-expanding. I illustrate this to say the rationale for the new hospital should be vigorously, publicly examined BEFORE the matter goes to trial because then it is too late. This is what the citizen participation process is supposed to be for, not alerting us to decisions after they have been made as has been too often the case in this ‘recovery’ already.

  • urbanrenewal2

    Amy, the draft environmental assessment for the VA hospital is available by emailing Elizabeth.Failla@va.gov

    It should also be available online soon through one of the several groups who question its findings of no significant impact.

  • BillygoatPark

    Per a front page story Bill Barrow and Jan Moller wrote for today’s Times-Picayune (“Crowded Budget Threatens Hospital”), state facilities director Jerry Jones and Dr. Fred Cerise, LSU vice president for health affairs reportedly said “…the university is still conducting environmental reviews and title searches and has not yet begun buying land for the project. The design contract will not be let until the state settles on the hospital’s scope.”

    These statements appear to contradict the written testimony Kim M. Boyle, Chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority Health Care Committee gave before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. (http://lra.louisiana.gov/assets/congress/BoyleTestimony080107.pdf )

    Boyle inferred in her August 1, 2007 testimony that the VA had not yet made a final determination about placement for its hospital and she wrote that state general funds had already been used for land acquisition within the proposed biomedical footprint. Per Boyle’s congressional testimony: “… some assert that building on the downtown site will unnecessarily delay the opening of the new VA medical center because the land is not yet owned free and clear by the state. ….The VA has said in prior Congressional testimony that the design process for any site it selects will likely run 18 months before groundbreaking can take place. State officials have already initiated land acquisition for the targeted downtown site using state general funds and have assured me that the site will be ready for construction before the end of that design process.”

    In her February 24th Times-Picayune cover story, Kate Moran indicated that the footprint currently under consideration for the hospital footprint was selected, in 2005, based upon a consultant’s recommendation.

    Who was that consultant and what criteria were involved in the selection process? Was the consultation undertaken before or after Katrina? At what point was a residential neighborhood deemed to be a preferable development site than the area south of Tulane Avenue in which the hospitals were originally intended to expand?

  • gobraduno

    Thank you BillyGoatPark for exposing this discreprency between Congressional testimony and the reality of land acquisition. Truly your finding(s) underscores the need for more angles in stopping this incredibly wasteful project — especially as it portends to demolish a living neighborhood.

    Per your final question to close your comments, subject to check, the consultancy Kate Moran referred to was The Adams Management Corporation. They were retained by LSU in 2003 to develop what eventually became a report entitled “Site and Facility Master Plan for Consolidation of Charity and University Hospitals at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans” [Project Number 19-610-03B-13, Part 01. Site code:1-36-036].

    Kate Moran is substantially correct in that ONE OF THE OPTIONS for the new hospital was dubbed the “North Option”. A second option, was dubbed the “South Option”. Yet it should be noted that the original footprint of land for each of these options was much less than the currently proposed site. The North Option took up four square blocks roughly bound by Canal, South Roman, Gravier and South Claiborne. The South Option was situated due west of University Hospital, bound roughly by South Galvez, Tulane Avenue, South Johnson and Poydras Street. The scale would have remained large [16 stories for the North Option, 17 for the South Option] with an incorporation of the current University Hospital site and the eventually closure of Big Charity. Also part of this plan was the current LSU Cancer Center where ground has already been broken at Tulane and S. Claiborne.

    SPecial thanks to Squandered Heritage for your vital work.

  • BillygoatPark

    What does Renewal Community 49 mean in light of the LSU/VA proposal?

    According to a map and information found on the latest version of the city website, Renewal Community 49 encompasses nearly all of the currently-proposed LSU/VA footprint. Boundaries for Renewal Community 49 are Banks, S. Broad, St. Louis and S. Claiborne but excludes the former Plaza Suites (Claiborne Tower). It also excludes the block directly across Canal Street from the old Plaza Suites Hotel.

    Here is the definition of Renewal Community Initiative as it is described on the city’s website:
    “The Renewal Community Initiative utilizes federal tax incentives to offer residents and businesses the opportunities and resources to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.”

    Is the above wording someone’s idea of a sick joke?