State Treasurer John N. Kennedy wants the Jindal administration to let the new governor and new Legislature decide how to renovate the former Charity Hospital building in New Orleans.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Division of Administration this year asked developers to submit ideas for renovating the five-building, million-square-foot facility on Tulane Avenue, which was closed in 2005 after being flooded by Hurricane Katrina.
The administration received five ideas for revitalizing the complex and the surrounding neighborhood.
Kennedy said he’s concerned the process is moving too fast and a decision could be made on the valuable downtown property before the governor leaves office in early January.
“I will be sending a letter to the governor asking that he please slow this train down and let the new governor and the new Legislature be involved through a public meeting,” Kennedy told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “We’ve got to do something with Big Charity. It’s a beautiful art deco building. ... I don’t want to see this administration do this, make a deal with somebody in the private sector going out the door. It’s too important.”
The ideas proposed range from turning the building into apartments and hotels to retail space and medical offices. One developer would purchase the building; others would renovate and lease the space.
“The division is currently convening an evaluation committee to consist of representatives from Facility Planning and Control, LSU, the city of New Orleans, and a member of the House and the Senate,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Moses, who heads the Office of Facility Planning and Control, said Monday in a prepared statement. “We expect the committee to meet within the next two weeks to review all of the responses.”
Moses added that the committee could make a recommendation in the next six weeks.
“Depending on the recommendation from this committee, further legislative approvals may be needed going forward,” he said.
The next steps after evaluation and follow-up with proposers will depend on the content of the selected responses, Moses said. The process for leasing the property to a private company is different than for selling the property outright, for example.
Louisiana House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, a New Orleans Democrat, said it’s important to develop the building sooner rather than later, but he feels any final decision probably wouldn’t occur until a new governor and new Legislature are elected.
“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to get started,” Leger said Monday, adding that whatever form the ultimate development takes, it should include projects that address public needs.
The five plans are:
CHR Partners LLC is a consortium put together by Yoel Shargian, who is with the New York office of the Israeli-affiliated El-Ad Group that includes local developers. CHR proposed to buy Charity for $30 million, then spend $245 million renovating the property. CHR would turn the building into apartments, a hotel, a biomedical facility and retail stores.
Healing Minds NOLA would convert the hospital into a mental health facility.
Historic Restoration Inc. would spend $194 million to revamp the hospital into an apartment complex, artist lofts, a day care center, retail stores and medical research facility.
Matthews Southwest, based in Dallas, would spend $232 million to create affordable apartments, a hotel, offices and retail stores surrounding a revamped Tulane Avenue plaza.
The University of North Carolina School of Government would create a development plan for residential, retail, office, hospitality and civic and parking.
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