For the sake of discussion, let’s move the argument about what to do with the Charity Hospital building beyond the possibility of it returning as a hospital and consider some other ideas. It remains a wonderful, sturdy building with great possibilities. Some thoughts, in descending order:
3. Make it a medical residential and office complex.
• Economic growth for the neighborhood (which is a given for all three of these suggestions)
• Because it would provide housing, there would be day and nightlife within the neighborhood
• Possible FEMA dollars
• Project could be ripe for private development
Comment: This plan would give downtown a badly needed residential base. People who live and work in the building could walk to the main library, the arena and the Superdome. There would also be incentive for activity in nearby theaters, including the Joy, Lowe’s (State Palace) and the Orpheum, which are currently not in operation.
Transportation lines, including the proposed new Loyola Avenue streetcar line, would have increased use.
2. Make it a parish office building.
To understand this idea advanced by retiring Civil Sheriff Paul Valteau, you need to understand that because the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish share the same boundaries, there are two types of government – city and parish – and share the same area, though with different responsibilities. City Hall is the seat of city government. Parish government includes many of the judicial and clerical functions, plus the school board. Valteau says that Orleans is the only parish without a parish government building.
• Combination of services under one roof
• Project would free up prime property now being used by the civil court building next to City Hall.
• Valteau thinks FEMA funding would be available.
Comment: If current plans to combine the civil and criminal courts are implemented, this would make the transition more efficient. Presently civil courts aren’t equipped to handle criminal cases, which often have increased security needs.
1. Make it the new City Hall.
Although modern in architecture, the present City Hall is a bit rundown and has never won many hearts in a city known for its elegant buildings. The Nagin administration’s failed attempt to have City Hall move into the Chevron Building was at least an acknowledgment that a new place is needed.
• Building is large enough to house many of the offices now occupying rented space outside of City Hall.
• Art Deco design could make a good architectural statement
• There is public green space for gatherings or demonstrations, as is appropriate for the seat of government.
• Site of the current City Hall could be open for new development
• Possible FEMA funding
• Revenue from sale of present City Hall site
Comment: What a bold statement it would be to turn the historic former hospital into the seat of city government. The combined medical center and City Hall in the area would make the neighborhood an economic powerhouse.
Imaginative development of the present City Hall site could provide even more activity for the area near the Super Dome.
And, wouldn’t it be wonderful that if, in its second life, Charity Hospital could provide some emergency care to our recovery?