A new search for developers to revitalize the vacant former Charity Hospital building has left the process pretty much where it was three years ago, with essentially the same three firms that were then the front-runners once again seeking to be chosen to redevelop the giant building on Tulane Avenue.
The companies — 1532 Tulane Partners, HRI Properties and Matthews Southwest — were picked as finalists in a process that is now being overseen by LSU’s Real Estate and Facilities Foundation, an affiliate of the fund-raising LSU Foundation, the organization announced Tuesday.
Those firms were also the main contenders to redevelop Charity in 2015, when then-Gov. Bobby Jindal sought proposals for reusing the more than 1-million-square-foot art deco building.
It has been vacant since the basement flooded during Hurricane Katrina, but the rest of the 20-story structure remains largely intact.
The selection process was restarted by Gov. John Bel Edwards when he took office the following year.
“The project management committee that’s currently leading this is very encouraged by the responses” to its recent request for qualifications, said Sara Whittaker, a spokeswoman for the LSU Foundation.
The foundation declined to provide details on the firms’ submissions Tuesday, and it was not immediately clear who else may have applied.
The first round of the latest process was aimed simply at selecting firms to work up proposals for the site. It did not ask them to submit any plans. The actual proposals will be submitted at an undetermined later date, Whittaker said.
JLL, the consulting firm hired by the foundation, did not review any of the previous proposals submitted to redevelop Charity before settling on their short list, Whittaker said.
But the previous submittals by the three firms could provide a window into their ideas for the site.
The group 1532 Tulane Partners is made up of the El Ad Group, the U.S. arm of an Israeli firm, and CCNO, a New Orleans developer with several projects around the city. A 2015 proposal from El Ad and CCNO, then working together as CHR Partners, would have paid the state $30 million and spent $245 million converting the former hospital into apartments, a hotel, stores and biomedical facilities.
The firm does not yet have a detailed proposal worked out for the latest selection process, said Joseph Stebbins, of CCNO. But, he said, any plans submitted by any of the firms are likely to have some things in common.
“It’ll be a modern, vertically integrated development no matter who does it. You’re going to have residential pieces, and you’re going to have an affordable (housing) piece,” he said.
HRI is a prolific local firm responsible for the redevelopment of the former Iberville and St. Thomas housing complexes and creation of many Warehouse District condo buildings, among many other projects in New Orleans and nationwide. HRI’s $194 million plan in 2015 involved an apartment complex, artist lofts, a daycare center, retail and a medical research facility.
The plan put forward in 2015 by Matthews Southwest, a real-estate development company headquartered in Lewisville, Texas, called for spending $232 million on affordable apartments, a hotel, offices and retail space.
The firm, which has done projects across the country and in Canada and the United Arab Emirates, did not respond to a request to discuss its current vision for the property.
Matthews Southwest is also partnering with local developers Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger on a proposal for a $558 million, 1,200-room Omni hotel on land owned by the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The redevelopment of the Charity building has long been an elusive goal.
Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed turning the building into a municipal complex by moving City Hall and the Civil District Court into the nearly 80-year-old structure. But that plan faced opposition from the judges and sputtered out due to a lack of funding.
Soon after that, Jindal’s administration announced it would start taking bids to redevelop the property.
After he was sworn in, Edwards went back to square one, with officials in his administration saying they hoped to cast a wider net that would yield better proposals.
That eventually landed the building’s fate in the hands of the LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation. That group brought in the Urban Land Institute to provide advice on how to reuse the building and has also convened a committee named the Spirit of Charity to guide the redevelopment process.