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The former Charity Hospital sits empty on the 1500 block of Tulane Avenue in New Orleans, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018.

The LSU Board of Supervisors gave developers approval today to turn the former New Orleans Charity Hospital building into an ambitious conglomerate of residential, retail and education spaces, among others.

Plans for the LSU-owned building on Tulane Avenue include both middle-income housing and luxury apartments, office spaces and, a high school and an early learning center. Chairman of LSU’s Real Estate Facilities Foundation Jimmy Maurin said Tulane University staff offices and housing for the university’s medical students would ultimately take up around half of the building. 

“You’re going to see the medical district blossom,” said board member Robert Yarborough, whose district covers the Baton Rouge area.

The developers of the project, 1532 Tulane Partners, have also said they are considering making some units short-term rentals. However, officials said businesses would need a hotel and motel license to rent out units in the building. Low-income housing will not be in the main Charity building but one of its surrounding buildings, according to developers.

Construction is expected to begin later in the fall and take about three years, according to Tulane Partners representatives.

The now defunct public hospital has a storied history in New Orleans. The hospital was founded in 1736 and was rebuilt several times. At 20 stories high, it was the second largest in the country when it was rebuilt in the 1930s. 

But after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures in 2005, LSU decided it would not reopen the hospital. Instead, University Medical Center was built on Canal Street as a replacement, displacing hundreds to make room for the building. The hospital has sat vacant ever since.

“I think it’s the most important building in the city of New Orleans,” Yarborough said. 

In January, the board gave firms approval to assess and make plans for the building. Its decision today allows a lease to be signed with developers and construction on the project to begin. Details of the lease include an upfront payment by 1532 Tulane Partners of $11.85 million and then additional yearly payments — starting at $250,000 — for 99 years.

Representatives said the agreement requires that the developer “will adhere to the commitments they put forth in their proposal around diversity, inclusion and equity” and that they will be monitored to ensure they meet those goals. 

The board expressed its support of the project at the meeting and board member and New Orleanian Jimmie Woods said that the project is a huge step for the city. 

“As one who was born in Charity Hospital, along with my colleague Mr. Williams I’m sure, and one who lived through Katrina, this is a great day,” he said.


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