Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look while you can

Cleveland Avenue from S. Galvez Street, LSU Footprint

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To be moved?

You'll recall that back in late January, a spokesman for the state said that historic homes would be moved off the LSU Footprint.  To date, not a single house has moved.

Still, it looks like over 20 homes are boarded, historic, and still structurally sound.  And I continue to hear that there's hope that these properties will be moved off the site.  I hope that's true.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Canal Street Commercial

This large building at Canal and S. Galvez, which has never appeared here, is in perfectly good shape - restored, sporting its Corinthian capitals and entablature.

It too, will be demolished.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Law suits filed against LSU challenging Footprint expropriations

I know of at least two suits that have been filed recently by property owners in the LSU Footprint that challenge not merely the amount of compensation for expropriated property, but other aspects of the takings as well.

For example, here's the opening of The Blood Center's attempt to impose a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and obtain injunctive relief:

Somewhat ironically, I know that a number of former residents of the LSU Footprint saw the Blood Center take over properties in the neighborhood...removing houses from two full squares of the neighborhood, making part of it "green space," and doing little with much of the property after Katrina.  As with just about any aspect of activities and controversies in the Footprint, things are complicated.

Additionally, a property owner on Cleveland Avenue has filed a suit that directly challenges the legality of the government taking, the expropriation by the LSU Board of Supervisors.  The City of New Orleans is also named as a defendant.

Here is a sampling:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Packed VA Neighborhood Meeting

Last evening, over 35 people attended the VA's neighborhood meeting for folks who live in the neighborhood of the proposed VA Hospital.  Months ago, when I started attending the meetings, that meant people who lived in the VA Footprint itself.  Now, it means the people who live on the periphery - in the area between S. Rocheblave and Broad Street.  The people who've been dealing with issues stemming from the hospital construction for months.

I've never seen so many people at one of these VA neighborhood meetings.

Derrick Morrison of the Committee to Reopen Charity, pictured below in full question mode, has been instrumental in organizing residents and pushing city hall to address the problems caused by the city's association with VA and the state.

Strangely, as much as the VA has destroyed in its push for a hospital, I have to say that at least it holds a monthly meeting for residents.  The state and LSU/UMC have never done such a thing for those in the LSU Footprint facing similar problems.  Additionally, Clark/McCarthy, the contractor who is actually constructing the VA - the joint venture was not responsible for site prep thus far - seems to try to address and head off issues proactively.  To my knowledge, a person from Jacobs Engineering, prime contractor for the site prep, has never once attended a VA neighborhood meeting through the many, many months of site preparation despite an occasional request.

Last night, the refrain that I kept hearing was this: the City of New Orleans has not been doing its job of standing up for residents in all of this.  People have continued to ask the same questions and express the same concerns over and over.  Residents noted that a city contractor working on streets and utilities to service the VA Hospital is rejecting their claims for structural home damage from construction activities.  They took umbrage at the idea of having to pay to get their homes photographed by the VA's contractor to provide recordation of any future damages from pile driving - test pile driving is set to begin in the site next week and continue for a month.

Various property owners complained that they had not received notice of the recordation offer, that lead testing had not been done, that dust continued to be a significant problem, that vibration concerns were real, that neighbors were still getting sick from conditions caused by the VA hospital and surrounding street construction.  Mary Howell, whose office is in the neighborhood, took the city to task.

Additionally, we learned that the VA has officially taken over the VA Footprint property from the state (except, it seems, the Dixie Brewery site).  One VA representative expressed concern that one bay of the brewery building may fall during the test piling phase.  It's not clear that any extra bracing will be in place to prevent damage to the building.

State Treasurer sounds off on WWL Radio

Yesterday, State Treasurer John Kennedy made some insightful - and damning - remarks about the financing and business model for the proposed UMC hospital on Garland Robinette's show.

"You've gotta figure on it coming in higher than that" - Kennedy, noting that in other words, the hospital will cost even more to build than projected.

"If you went to the bond market today...I do not believe you would be able to borrow the money at an acceptable interest rate..." - Kennedy

Kennedy starts talking at about 7 minutes in.  Shortly before 13 minutes in, he suggests that rebuilding in the old hospital (Charity) is one of the two options for how to deal with the issues.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"And people said we'd never be able to build this hospital. And people said we'd never get the money. Well we did it," exclaimed Paul Rainwater, Louisiana commissioner of administration.

No, ya'll did not do it.

1. The hospital has not been built.

2. The total sum of money necessary to build the hospital as envisioned is not in hand.

Given that factual disconnect with his comments yesterday, Commissioner Paul Rainwater purposefully mislead the public at the UMC groundbreaking ceremony.  It's convenient rhetoric to spout while the tv cameras were rolling, but the claims are not true.  He could have claimed that the state held a groundbreaking ceremony - but that's about it.

"It's like shooting a business that doesn't need to be shot"

Marshall Gerson, longtime owner of Ellgee's Uniform Shop at 1831 Tulane Avenue, describes the ironic folly of the UMC disrupting and displacing his business in the name of economic development.

Mayor Landrieu clearly didn't care, choosing instead to double down on a rotten deal:

"It's taken too long and it's been too hard and I'm calling on everybody now to redouble their efforts," said Landrieu.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Praying for Additional Financing

No, that's not merely an attempt at a clever title.  The chaplain at today's groundbreaking actually mentioned the need for further financing.  You could almost hear the silent groans from the gathered officials on the dais.

"Doubts Raised Over Size of Hospital"

That auspicious front page headline will hover over today's UMC groundbreaking ceremony.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Set Up

A parking lot in the 1900 block of Tulane Avenue sat waiting for the Monday UMC "groundbreaking" across from the existing LSU complex.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another One Razed

The house at 2127 Palmyra is gone, demolished in the LSU Footprint after the state paid $171,800 for the property.

Here's a shot of the house, lived in, back in October on the night of the final Oktoberfest at Deutsches Haus.

Here's a view of the front porch last summer.

And here's a general view of the home before it was needlessly demolished.

Here's what it looked like last week as crews started in on it:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dust Bowling

Large clouds of dust rolled across the bleak expanse of VA Hospital footprint this afternoon, driven by high winds.

Vitter Continues Push against UMC in leadup to Monday "groundbreaking"

I'm glad.

The State of Louisiana must be looking to create a "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier moment next week.

The state and the UMC Board are proceeding with a so-called groundbreaking ceremony on Monday to give the impression that everything is on track despite the facts that: the state/UMC doesn't have the money to build everything, it doesn't have a business plan, it says just days ago that it's studying scaling back the design, it doesn't have the streets revoked, it doesn't have all the parcels it says it needs, and there are several legal challenges from property owners underway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Destruction Continues: Compare and Contrast in the LSU Footprint

Here's what the 1900 block of Palmyra Street looked like today.

Here's what the same block looked like just a few months ago - it was dense with movable, historic homes.

The state said it would move houses off the LSU Footprint back in late January, 2011.  Not a single house has moved off the site.  Instead, more houses, like the one below, have continued to get demolished.

1915-17 Palmyra, where Raven and Will lived, was demolished yesterday.  It's more proof that state officials in the Jindal administration will say anything to ameliorate critics...and then do exactly what they were doing all along without changing course.

UMC Street Revocation Advances

The state/UMC doesn't have the money, but the city is nevertheless on its way to giving up the streets.

Mr. Jerry Jones illustrated yesterday that he will say just about anything to force this hospital into being. 

Thankfully, Mr. George Amedee, the lone vote against revocation, asked a number of skeptical questions...and very clearly wasn't satisfied with the non-answers he got.

The City Council must still approve the CPC action for revocation of the streets to be ordained.

It was good to see that a CPC proviso, added to the measure by staff, requires the state to preserve McDonogh No. 11 School in place or move it.  So our efforts on that front have paid off.  Unfortunately, the measure said nothing about requiring the state to move houses off the site - and another shotgun was demolished along Palmyra yesterday.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More on the Vitter, UMC push

The Lens


City Planning Commission Hearing Today - Oppose Revocation of the Streets

City Council Chambers
1:30 PM

Reasons to oppose revocation of ALL the streets in the UMC Footprint as the state proposes:

- They don't have the money
- They don't need all of the streets right now even if they did have the money (much of the site is only for vague potential future expansion)
- There are still ongoing legal issues with the Blood Center and the Orleans Parish School Board
- It is unclear whether historic homes and McDonogh No. 11 School will be saved
- A U.S. Senator is now openly opposing additional federal support for the project, saying it's too risky
- The UMC business plan has yet to be completed
- The state has planned a "groundbreaking" on April 18 - without evening knowing if it will get street revocation approved by the CPC and the City Council
- If the state is now looking at scaling back the project, then why not retrofit Charity Hospital, as has been suggested as a viable alternative all along?

Tell the City Planning Commission to vote no on the state's request to revoke the streets in the UMC Footprint.

"Moving Soon"

Ellgee Uniforms, one of the dozens of businesses displaced unnecessarily by the proposed, underfinanced UMC hospital, will be moving up Tulane Avenue from it's current spot at 1831 Tulane in the near future.

I will remind you that at a UMC Board meeting in the late fall, the state and its architect noted that, among other things, a uniform shop might be a nice occupant for the proposed retail spaces envisioned for the bottom floor of the large parking decks that will face Tulane at this location (1800 block of Tulane Avenue).

Local TV Stations Carry Vitter's Criticism



(If anyone has the video links, please leave hyperlinks in the comments)

More on Senator Vitter's Criticisms - and the "study"

Both yesterday's Times-Picayune article and the evening AP article on Senator Vitter's critique of the proposed UMC Hospital introduce an interesting new twist into the controversy.  It's the claim from the state and UMC that there's a study underway that might result in the project being scaled back:

"Jindal's Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said Monday the HUD-backed financing is one of several options the state is pursuing. He said the board appointed to oversee the new medical center's development is awaiting a study that could scale back the project."

That's news to me.  As of the Thursday UMC Board Meeting, there was no discussion of a study on scaling back the project.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but there was not a peep about moving in such a direction.

Instead, Jerry Jones from the state insisted repeatedly and very overtly that the state was in no way going to build a smaller hospital complex.  I can't tell you how clear he made that point.  I remember because I was skeptical of the claim every time it was made.

If the project is going to be scaled back, it should be put in the existing Charity Hospital shell as Vitter rightly suggests.

And there's also the nagging problem of the expropriations involved in acquiring the proposed UMC site.  If the state hasn't really needed all of the 37-acres in the site...then the taking of many properties was arguably not in furtherance of a public purpose.

At any rate, these concerns and developments are all the more reason to show up at the City Planning Commission hearing today at 1:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.  Show up and speak against the state's premature attempt to revoke all the streets in the UMC Footprint.

Here's a solid new editorial at The Lens explaining why the street revocation would be unwise.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mid-City Neighborhood Organization takes official stance against the BioDistrict

You can read the letter and the various points of contention here.

BioDistrict New Orleans encompasses both hospital sites - and more, a total of 1,500 acres of New Orleans.

Vitter Slams UMC Effort to Obtain HUD Mortgage Insurance


He also suggests going back into the existing Charity Hospital.

Letter itself will be appearing here shortly.


UPDATE: Here is the letter, in two images:


Individuals who appear to be prisoners were seemingly cleaning up the grounds this morning around the work trailers that house Jacobs Engineering staff in the LSU Footprint.

Last Legs

A Craftsman-era home stands alone on Cleveland Avenue, the parcels around it razed and cleared since the first of the year.  The giant Grand Palace Hotel stands behind it, awaiting demolition. 

It is unclear whether the parking deck off on the left will be retained...seeing as the city made a point of forcing the state, in a CEA, to build a second parking deck on Tulane Avenue instead of leaving acres of surface parking.  Demolition of the existing parking structure after the city's push would represent the height of absurdity.

The shot is framed by the arc of the Canal Street offramp from nearby I-10.  The ramp is set to remain in place.

Rehab Underway

Crews continued rehabilitation work today on two historic homes now located on Bienville Street.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 fires off a post

If you're looking to make a public comment at the Thursday UMC Board meeting, this will give you all kinds of fodder.

In Dixie

There's now a little shed inside the gaping carriage-way that runs through the 1907 Dixie Brewery building.

Peripheral Places

Here's a view of S. Rocheblave Street on the lakeside boundary of the VA Hospital Footprint.  People still live along this stretch of roadway.

On Palmyra Street, too, the roadway was impassible given the work at the intersection of S. Doregenois and Palmyra just above the VA Hospital footprint.

UMC Board Meeting on Thursday

Note that it is possible to give public comment.  Also note that the meeting is not in its normal location.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Last Day

I caught up with Sam Kranzthor today as he moved a few final items out of the Canal Street Guest House on Canal Street under the live oaks. 

Once a bordello of sorts, the building turned around under the Kranzthors, "We made this a good place for good people."  Several people, seeing this blog, have contacted me and confirmed that Canal Street Guest House was indeed a good place, a place that mattered to them and their sense of what makes New Orleans.

"The building looks kind of sad now," he noted as he wheeled two tables out of the building he once owned.  He's been moving things out for the past four days.

Unlike a neighboring property - a Cox Communications block house that will apparently stay put and be built around by the UMC...interesting - today was the last day for the Canal Street Guest House.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Watch the Land - Henry Herdman's Properties

A slew of property transfers for the LSU Footprint went through between March 10 and 15 of this year.  I've excerpted, from, the ones that pertain to the proposed hospital site below.  Note the preponderance of Henry Herdman Properties:

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Transfers filed March 10-15


Canal St. 1830-32-34: Henry Herdman Properties LLC to LSU Board of Supervisors A&M College and Division of Administration, Office of the Governor Division, $279,657.

Cleveland Ave. 1716: Dixie International Tours Inc. to LSU Board of Supervisors A&M College and Division of Administration Office of the Governor, $135,000.

Cleveland Ave. 1800, 1804: Henry Herdman Properties LLC to LSU Board of Supervisors A&M College and Division of Administration, Office of the Governor Division, $41,000.

Cleveland Ave. 1805-07-09-11: Henry Herdman Properties LLC to LSU Board of Supervisors A&M College and Division of Administration, Office of the Governor Division, $55,000.

(Continues after the break)

The Fence Goes Up

An 8-foot high chainlink fence began to emerge on the Canal Street perimeter of the VA Hospital Footprint.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"incredibly sad, tragic and problematic"

Tulane University highlights the photographic work of Stephen Hilger, who's been shooting in Lower Mid-City for several years, documenting the losses caused by the LSU/VA hospitals project.

Demolitions, Displacement Continue in LSU Footprint - "Ground breaking" set

In that past week or two, site preparation work in the LSU or UMC Footprint has ramped up compared to the relative lull that preceded it.  It appears that some houses, upon being boarded, may actually be waiting for a moving process.  I hope that's the case, and we continue to work with various parties to promote and facilitate a house moving effort.  To date, not a single building has been moved off the site.

Still, demolitions of structures and clearance of trees and other vegetation continues.  In the photo above, for example, you'll see the vacant lot that remains after the bracketed shotgun house at 1914-16 Palmyra Street was demolished in the past few days.  Crews are active in several different parcels in the lower part of the footprint near S. Claiborne.

Establishments like the Fastenal store on Canal and the Canal Street Guest House now sit vacant, devoid of life.

Residents, too, continue to trickle out.  There are few people left now.  Sam, who lives in the Footprint, looked on as his daughter's belongings were carted out of a camelback house at S. Prieur and Cleveland Avenue earlier this week.

One has to wonder about all of this.  The resurgence in site prep. activity seems to confirm some of what we've been hearing: that the effort to obtain HUD mortgage insurance (to make up the financing gap for the proposed UMC hospital) has failed...meaning the state will simply bull forward on a smaller hospital while talking fancifully about third party support and junk bonds.  HUD has not responded to my inquiry about the status of the UMC application.

The UMC Board is scheduled to meet on April 7 at 1:00 p.m. at the Interim LSU University Hospital.  If the meeting occurs, I'll be very interested to hear the latest on the financing.  If you'd like to speak at the meeting, be sure to show up at least 30 minutes prior to sign up, as it's a requirement for any public comment.

If the UMC and State of Louisiana have failed in the attempt to get HUD financing, it should not result in a redoubling of efforts to make the self-fulfilling prophecy come true in the LSU Footprint.  It should instead cause board members to wake up and ask why, given the smaller pile of cash onhand, the board isn't looking at going back into Charity Hospital.  That option, as has been clear all along, would require less money.

The belligerent resistance to that plan all along revealed the contempt that the state and LSU have for the City of New Orleans and its residents.

Now, the state has set up a groundbreaking for April 18 at 11:15 a.m. - regardless of the fact that the City of New Orleans has not yet revoked the public streets necessary for the proposed hospital to be built.  Nor has the state/LSU Board of Supervisors acquired all the property necessary.

A groundbreaking ceremony in the LSU Footprint on April 18 sounds a lot like hoisting a "Mission Accomplished" banner on an aircraft carrier.

The City Planning Commission considers the street revocation on April 12, and the City Council must also pass the measure after that.  Given the state's unwise, arrogant, and dismissive approach to this project, I encourage people to attend the April 12 City Planning Commission at 1 p.m. in City Council Chambers to oppose the closure of the streets.  When the City loses the streets, it loses its last bit of leverage over the project.  New Orleans should not lie down and take this.