New Orleans — Officials broke ground Friday on the new eastern New Orleans hospital, bringing the eventual return of full-service health care to the area for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

Work will begin Jan. 25 on the $130 million project and is expected to be completed by December.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the facility, leaving the area without proper medical care.

The hospital will be on the site of the former Pendleton Methodist Hospital just off of Read Boulevard. Officials began to demolish part of the old building in November. New construction will include an emergency department, imaging and surgical suites and laboratories.

The existing structure will be renovated and include a cafeteria, chapel and administrative offices, along with patient rooms, the intensive care unit, diagnostic testing and the hospital pharmacy.

While owned by the city, the hospital will be operated by the Daughters of Charity and the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the hospital’s return is the “most iconic symbol” of eastern New Orleans’ post-Katrina rebuilding.

Friday’s ground breaking was delayed several weeks after Darrell Naquin, a crane operator working on the demolition of the former hospital, died during an on-site accident.

City officials hope the hospital’s imminent return will have ripple effects for the east, particularly in regard to economic development. While there have been spurts of activity in that regard, the area still has a dearth of businesses for the nearly 70,000 residents who call the area home.

“There has been a lot of heavy investment in the area,” Landrieu said. “This is really the major economic engine.”

District E Councilman James Gray agreed. “This is a necessary symbol of the growth that will continue in this city and district,” Gray said.