After remaining untouched for more than a decade, the trash-strewn halls of Charity Hospital are set to be cleaned out as state officials continue discussing the fate of the historic New Orleans hospital.
The cleanup is a prelude to a new effort to redevelop the 20-story, Art Deco-style building, a process that is being overseen by a group of lawmakers and representatives of the state and city governments.
“We haven’t gotten a hard (redevelopment) proposal from anybody, but I think getting it cleaned up will make it easier,” said state Senate President John Alario, a member of the group.
The LSU Health Sciences Center, which ran the hospital and still oversees the site, awarded contracts for the cleanup to Zimmer-Eschette Service II and Insul-tech Insulation Technologies.
Zimmer-Eschette will clean out the main hospital building for $6.38 million. Insul-Tech will be paid $487,000 for work at the six-story Lapeyre-Miltenberger building, which also was part of the medical complex.
Work is expected to start in the first two weeks of January. The cleanup of the main hospital is expected to take about 180 days. The Lapeyre-Miltenberger building should be finished in about half that time.
The work needed is expected to be significant. Little has been done to the interior of the hospital since it was shut down after it flooded during Hurricane Katrina, and equipment and debris remain inside.
Instead of restoring the 1939 building, once the second largest hospital in the United States, state officials opted to replace it with the new, $1.2 billion University Medical Center on the other side of South Claiborne Avenue.
The old building has remained largely untouched. Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed using the building to house City Hall and some of the city's courts, but those plans were opposed by some of the judges and fell through.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal sought proposals to redevelop the million-square-foot building late in his administration. Five groups submitted ideas for the site.
But when Gov. John Bel Edwards took office early this year, he restarted the process, with administration officials saying they were hoping to cast a wider net and get additional ideas.
There’s no specific timeline in place for seeking new proposals, Alario said, though getting the buildings cleaned out could help entice developers who might have worried about the cost of such an effort.
“I don’t think there’s any particular rush,” Alario, R-Westwego, said. “I think we’re looking for the best prospect both for the city of New Orleans and for the state of Louisiana.”
He pointed to the process New Orleans used to find a company to redevelop the World Trade Center, which yielded a plan to put a Four Seasons hotel in the building, as a model the state could use as it seeks proposals.
Previous proposals have suggested mixes of housing, hotel rooms and retail space or else refurbishing the building as a biomedical facility. Alario said the group of officials is not looking at one particular use.