By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

In the nine months since Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration took over City Hall, long-delayed capital projects have made steady, if slow, progress. Even so, don’t expect to see too many cranes in the sky just yet. More than half of 210 planned projects remain in pre-construction phases.

A breakdown of progress presented last week to the City Council by Landrieu’s facility chief, Cedric Grant, shows 88 projects, or 42 percent, of the year’s capital projects still in design or planning phases. Another 19, or 9 percent of the total, are in pre-construction contract negotiation.

By way of comparison, when Landrieu took office in May, his team inherited a daunting 655 capital project plans, 39 percent of which were in initial planning and design phases without finalized financing. A  $300 million gap stood between the plan’s projected $1.5 billion cost and the $1.2 billion the city had.

In time for the fifth anniversary of Katrina in August, the mayor announced that his administration would radically trim the city’s recovery program and commit to just 100 projects that the city could afford to complete. The 210 projects in the 2011 capital budget include smaller projects bundled within the list of 100, as well as a number of routine improvements that weren’t touted in August.

Some projects that have made progress, such as the Lafitte Greenway linear park and the Reinventing the Crescent riverfront park, have seen their scopes change as the Landrieu administration reworks contracts penned under the city’s last mayor, Ray Nagin, and adjusts projects to fit current city policy. The greenway project, for instance, has expanded since the new mayor took office, with the city purchasing a key parcel within the project footprint and expanding the scope of work to be done by the architecture firm hired to manage the project. The city expects to complete negotiations on a contract with the firm, Design Workshop, within the next several months.

Other projects have moved forward with little change, including 41 complete public works projects and 13  that are now nearly complete. All 13 were publicized in August when Landrieu announced the administration’s commitment to completing them as part of what was then touted as 100-project citywide recovery program that would cost $640 million and take three years.

At that time, all 13 were in construction phases, which means they had already moved through time-consuming design and planning phases.

The 13 nearly done projects are:

  • Street patching repairs in Lake Terrace and Lake Oaks in Gentilly
  • Street patching repairs in Navarre neighborhood in Lakeview
  • Street patching repairs in Marlyville and Fontainbleau section of Broadmoor
  • Street patching repairs Catina Street between Mouton Street and Robert E. Lee Boulevard
  • Gallier Hall renovations
  • Joseph Bartholomew Golf Course in Pontchartrain Park section of Gentilly
  • New Orleans Recreation Department high mast lighting citywide (three sites)
  • Easton playground equipment donation
  • Equipment donation in Gentilly’s Donnelly Park
  • Latter Library roof replacement
  • Improvements and renovations to Brechtel Park

The city moved another nine projects into construction during the fall and winter, Grant said Wednesday.

These projects and their estimated “substantial completion” dates are:

  • Municipal Yacht Harbor, Administration building repairs, this month
  • Demolition for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, March
  • Road improvements to Audubon Boulevard between Willow Street and South Claiborne Avenue, May
  • Joe Brown Indoor Pool, May
  • Norman Mayer Library, August
  • Robert E. Smith Library, August
  • New Orleans East Regional Library, August
  • Magazine Street between the Crescent City Connection and Nashville Avenue, November
  • Reinventing the Crescent Downriver Park, July 2012

For a full update on all the city’s capital projects, you can check the city’s online database of capital and recovery projects.