There are lots of possibilities for the building that once housed Charity Hospital, but one thing it will never be—a hospital. That is not just an opinion, but a fact. Part of the condition of the federal funding to build the new University Hospital complex was that the old hospital had to have a different use. So it will be something else.
What it will be is almost certain: a multi-use complex. That is the most sensible use for it. One day it will be bustling with condos, a hotel, restaurants and offices. The only question is how much of each.
Since Katrina, the building has stood unused and unoccupied. When a contract was awarded to clear out the building, workers found beds still intact from the day of the hurricane, there were even specimen bottles that were never emptied. Now that it is mostly cleared, the magnificence of the art deco-era 20-story building is showing through. There is an organized competition among developers to show their plans.
In this, our annual Best Doctors issue, the emphasis is on the physicians, but there is something to be said about the places in which they work. A great building can be a part of the community health.
One local visionary told me that he hopes the Big Charity development will bring a whole new population to the lower Mid-City neighborhood. He envisions a shift toward Canal Street, which can draw more interplay to the bustling activity along the Canal/Carrollton corridor.
Tulane Avenue, which for so long has teetered on blight, could also have a resurrection. Already there are signs of that happening. A symbolic throwback will be when the new Nick’s Bar opens. Just as in the old Nick’s, once again folks will be swigging banana banshees and Dixie Beer in the neighborhood.
Ernie K-Doe, the late flamboyant rhythm and blues singer was proud to frequently proclaim that he had been a “Charity Hospital baby.” At its prime, the hospital’s maternity ward and emergency room were among the two busiest places in town. I suspect there won’t be many babies born in the new Big Charity, but it will certainly be part of a neighborhood’s rebirth.