A new attempt to redevelop the former Charity Hospital building in New Orleans is moving a step closer to reality as officials seek firms interested in doing a large-scale project on the site.
The LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation and the state, working with the Greater New Orleans Foundation, on Monday formally put out a request for qualifications from companies that could potentially redevelop the 79-year-old Art Deco building, which has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina flooded its ground floor and basement in 2005.
The request is in line with a recommendation from the Urban Land Institute, which called for redevelopment of the 20-story, million-square-foot building but offered few concrete suggestions for its potential uses.
Yet another plan to redevelop Charity Hospital may be in the works, this time led by LSU and the LSU Foundation, the university's fundraising arm.
The range of possible uses for the state-owned property will likely become clearer as developers respond to the new call for qualifications.
The redevelopment effort is also expected to receive input from a "Spirit of Charity" committee spearheaded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. It's not clear who else will serve on that committee.
“After more than a dozen long years, this effort to adaptively repurpose the iconic Charity Hospital building presents an exciting opportunity to bring back a place that is sacred to many New Orleanians,” Greater New Orleans Foundation President and CEO Andy Kopplin said. “Even more exciting ... is the potential for using this initiative to kick-start longstanding efforts to develop the neighborhood surrounding Charity.”
Developers have until May 16 to submit their qualifications. Those selected as finalists will then be asked to submit more detailed plans for the site.
The redevelopment of Charity Hospital has been a slow process since Katrina. State officials opted not to restore the building, instead choosing to build the $1 billion University Medical Center in what had been a mostly residential area of Mid-City a few blocks away.
None of the proposals for reusing the site since the storm has gained significant traction.
Five years ago, Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed turning Charity into a municipal building that would have included both City Hall and Civil District Court. That plan collapsed in the face of opposition from the judges and estimates that it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate the building.
This is the second time in recent years that a call has gone out to find developers interested in the site. Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration put out a request for proposals for the building in 2015. A few developers expressed interest, but the process was scrapped after Gov. John Bel Edwards took office.
An official clean-out of the building was completed last year to remove debris that had remained inside since the storm. The LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation, an affiliate of the university's fund-raising foundation, then was brought on to help find a new use for the building.
It's unclear what the final outcome for Charity will be though the Urban Land Institute, which was hired to help with the process, did not rule out the idea of a municipal complex.
Other suggested uses have included retail, some sort of medical facility and residential, perhaps for students at the two nearby medical schools.
“The redevelopment of Big Charity will be the catalyst for increased dynamic economic activity in all of New Orleans,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said. “And we’re confident that we can find the right partner for this transparent process, while at the same time preserving the historic significance of this iconic building.”