With the city of New Orleans having abandoned plans to convert Charity Hospital into a municipal government complex, the state is taking another stab at redeveloping the giant vacant structure.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, in a solicitation to developers and agencies issued Wednesday, is asking for ideas on converting the site into a wide mix of possible uses including housing and medical and government offices.
The state solicitation encourages “creative and innovative redevelopment ideas” for the 76-year-old art deco structure.
The building has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina, replaced temporarily by the Interim LSU Hospital, which itself will be replaced by the University Medical Center now under construction in Mid-City.
“Our goal is to find an appropriate use for this building, to put it into commerce and to put it back into the community,” Division of Administration spokeswoman Meghan Parrish said.
Although the state’s request includes a timeline that concludes with a deal for the site being signed in September, Parrish said the current solicitation is only a first step in redeveloping the property and no “action will be taken at the end of the process.”
The request covers five properties. In addition to the 20-story, 999,750-square-foot Charity Hospital building at 1532 Tulane Ave., the request includes a 15,574-square-foot office building at 1508 Gravier St.; a 12,312-square-foot structure, last used as a maintenance shop, at 433-435 La Salle Street; the 15,665-square-foot former Delgado building, last used as a primary care facility, at 1545 Tulane Ave.; and the 22,651-square-foot Butterworth building, last used as office space for health care services, at 1541 Tulane.
The state is open to either selling Charity and the associated properties or leasing them in a public-private partnership agreement. The state said it will not contribute to any initial capital costs.
The request is one of many the state is “undertaking to meet its goals of monetizing underutilized real estate assets, reducing statewide facility operational costs and improving energy efficiency,” the solicitation says.
The solicitation does not provide an estimated value for the buildings.
The winning proposal would likely be eligible for state and federal tax credits related to the restoration of historic buildings.
The state will offer a site visit of the property, which is being cleared of its contents by the LSU Health Care Services Division, on April 15.
Proposals are due July 1.
A timeline included in the request says the state will select a developer for the site in late July and finalize an agreement by the fall. However, Parrish said the timeline is “tentative” and next steps will be determined by the type of responses the request for ideas generates. For instance, if the state receives mostly offers to purchase the buildings, it may list them as surplus and sell them at auction, she said.
But if the proposals are mostly to partner with the state in redeveloping the site, then the state would issue a formal request for proposals.
A market study by the consulting arm of Pasadena, California-based Jacobs Engineering Group, included in the state solicitation, identifies government, biomedicine and housing as primary possible reuses for the property. The solicitation says a mix of uses would be a “sustainable option.”
Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said there already has been “lots of interest” in the solicitation, including from some of the development teams that last month lost out on the project to convert the former World Trade Center building into a hotel and residences.
The city, for a time, had been the state’s first choice to acquire and redevelop the hospital. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu could not come up with the money to buy the building. Landrieu’s $400 million plan would have moved City Hall and Civil District Court into the former hospital. But the proposal was opposed by the court’s judges, including Michael Bagneris, who left the bench to launch an unsuccessful run to unseat Landrieu last year.
The judges were to be a critical part of the city’s financing plan for the project. The Legislature also declined the city’s request for money to renovate the structure.
The Landrieu administration “has no plans to submit a redevelopment proposal” to the state, Landrieu press secretary Brad Howard said Thursday, but it expects to be “fully consulted throughout the entire planning, design and development process,” he said.
“We encourage the state to promote good, responsible development that preserves the historic significance of this property and strengthens the local community,” Howard said.
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the Charity site, said she hopes that whatever project comes out of the process includes a component aimed at addressing mental health or affordable housing needs in the city.
Providing mental health services in one wing of the former hospital had been discussed as part of Landrieu’s proposal for a municipal complex, and Cantrell said affordable housing is needed as development — and housing prices — has picked up in the Central Business District.
Generally, however, Cantrell said she is excited to see what ideas developers will propose.
Cantrell also said she is glad the Landrieu administration won’t be pursuing plans to put City Hall in the building because it means about $52 million in hazard mitigation funding that would have gone toward that project can now be spent on stormwater projects and similar efforts.