Land Use

Landrieu asks state for $100 million to put City Hall, civil courts at Charity

Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Friday applied for $100 million in state funds for the redevelopment of the abandoned Charity Hospital building. Landrieu wants to move City Hall and Civil District Court into the refashioned building that would be called the Civic Center.

The Civil District Court judges, however, are taking steps in another direction. They advertised a Request for Qualifications in The Times-Picayune on Wednesday to build a new courthouse “to be located within the Central Business District …on a site designated by the JBC,” the court’s Judicial Building Commission.

In an interview, Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese said the purpose of the RFQ “is to let people know we are in the process of putting out bids.” The judges will meet with interested bidders Thursday to answer questions.

“Once we get a site, we’ll have our ducks in a row to move forward,” said Reese, who is spearheading the building effort with Judge Michael Bagneris.

The site, though, is the sticking point.

The judges have the state Legislature’s approval to build a new courthouse on the back side of Duncan Plaza, on a patch of land where the state Supreme Court once stood. But the judges cannot go forward unless the state Division of Administration authorizes a transfer of the land – something it hasn’t done because of Landrieu’s opposition, the judges believe.

The judges set an informal deadline of Oct. 31 to receive that approval.

“We are looking at other options,” Reese said. “Duncan Plaza is the most desirable site for us.”

Bagneris has said the courthouse would cost $100 million. The judges have not secured all of their financing. They have sought approval to use the bonding capacity of the BioDistrict New Orleans, a state entity with a mission to foster a biomedical industry.

In the meantime, Landrieu’s $100 million request for Charity is only the first step in a complicated process to secure what are known as capital outlay construction funds. The request will ultimately require approval by the state Legislature during its session next year, as well as by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Landrieu requested $100 million in capital outlay funds for Charity in the 2013 legislative session but got only $13 million. Considering that city officials have put the price tag on a redeveloped Charity building at $300 million, he has a long way to go to obtain all of the money. He hopes to open the redeveloped building by 2018.

His $100 million request seems a reach given that Whit Kling, director of the Louisiana Bond Commission, said the state has $335 million to spend on capital outlay projects, with legislators from throughout Louisiana trying to get their projects funded.

Kling said Jindal administration officials could take money already committed for other construction projects and give it to Charity. They recently reallocated $79 million in spending.

Cedric Grant, the deputy mayor in charge of New Orleans’ construction projects, said in an interview that the state also has $50 million available for Charity under a category known as hazard mitigation. That money came from FEMA and would be in addition to the $13 million the city has already secured.

The city also hopes to get several more million dollars, Grant said.

Besides City Hall and the Civil District Court, Landrieu administration officials also have proposed moving Delgado Community College’s nursing school to the renovated Charity.

Developer Pres Kabacoff has suggested creating a neuroscience facility in the building, which has one million square feet of space.

Two civic activists, writing in The Lens, have suggested that a refashioned Charity could house mental health facilities. Dr. Marianne Maumus has suggested that it become a center for charity services and a medical museum.

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About Tyler Bridges

Tyler Bridges covers Louisiana politics and public policy for The Lens. He returned to New Orleans in 2012 after spending the previous year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where he studied digital journalism. Prior to that, he spent 13 years as a reporter for the Miami Herald, where he was twice a member of Pulitzer Prize-winning teams while covering state government, the city of Miami and national politics. He also was a foreign correspondent based in South America. Before the Herald, he covered politics for seven years at The Times-Picayune. He is the author of The Rise of David Duke (1994) and Bad Bet on the Bayou: The Rise of Gambling in Louisiana and the Fall of Governor Edwin Edwards (2001). He can be reached at (504) 810-6222.

  • Janet Hays

    “Considering that city officials have put the price tag on a redeveloped Charity building at $300 million”

    Watch that number triple if and when they ever do a feasibility study. LOL! Especially if they want to structurally alter the building and tear down the historic Butterworth Building to put in the necessary green space Pres Kabacoff is talking about.

    50 million of HMG money allocated to a building that is nothing more than idea at this point is ridiculous. I’d like to know how residents would like to see that PUBLIC money spent.

    Public officials need to remember who’s money they are spending and who they are accountable to.