Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The resulting design plan envisioned a footprint that would fit nicely in Glendale, Ariz., or any American suburb where the unifying design element is the surface parking lot."

John Maginnis talks Lower Mid-City hospitals in today's Times-Picayune.

He rightly praises Mayor Mitch Landrieu for taking a more constructive and engaged approach in the matter than predecessor Ray Nagin.

However, this statement - "But he felt community pressure not to allow LSU and the state to have their way razing and replacing everything on 70 acres in the middle of town" - reveals the real problem. 

Even if Landrieu does force LSU to come up with a better design for the LSU side, even though he did support the house moving on the VA side, 70 acres in the middle of town will still be razed and replaced.  The state and LSU will still ultimately have their way even if the window dressing is shifted slightly.  Landrieu felt the intense community outcry, but he didn't respond and act with similar intensity on the leadership side. 

I'm sure he and his staff view his responses as the "reasonable, middle ground" solutions - and the house moving, for example, is admittedly a major undertaking.  I'm sure they're tired of "obstructionist" advocates who are never seemingly satisfied with any measure.  But here's the thing: a mere "balanced" response by the city's leader is not a sufficient response when the harm he seeks to redress or avoid is dramatic, long-lasting, avoidable, and clearly wrong in many ways.  It requires more than we've seen thus far.

There are no plans to move the over 50 historic homes in the LSU Footprint at this time.  Even if the design on that side of the project is superior, it's still slated to involved outright demolition of many properties that contribute to the Mid City Historic District.

Additionally, the solid VA Hospital building "island" out in the Mid-City neighborhoods will still break up the street grid and distort the neighborhood even if the LSU Footprint's design is revised to avoid those problems.

In short: Yes, Landrieu has reduced the pain in a number of ways - and he should be recognized for it - but that's little consolation when the city is still having a major surgery performed in the wrong location.

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