Sunday, July 31, 2011

The BioDistrict Walker

Is almost done with the grand trek through the 1,500-acre district.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tracing Vacancies

As of Thursday, the outbuildings behind McDonogh No. 11 were gone.

Both the infirmary, shown here during demolition, and the small building that served most recently as JROTC offices (visible behind the collapsing roof) have been demolished.  Below, you'll see a shot out of one of the upper windows of McDonogh No. 11 from our visit with permission in the spring.  The roofs of both buildings are visible.

The infirmary, especially, should have been moved. It was in good shape and it has character (although it was likely built after 1900, later than the original school building).  It was mentioned in the booklet that I helped put together to provide to policymakers in an effort to persuade them to push for the moving of historic structures in the UMC site.

Here's a shot from the day of the visit:

 The hospitals project has resulted in many losses.  This blog exists to count the costs.

"Hospital Board Cancels Meeting"

That's the headline from a piece in today's Times-Picayune.

I have yet to see the story appear anywhere online.

Here's the gist of it:

"The University Medical Center governing board has canceled its Thursday meeting as a pair of consulting firms collaborate on modifying a business plan for the new teaching hospital slated for Mid-City.  The board's next scheduled meeting is Sept. 1, though it's no guarantee that the Verite Healthcare Consulting and Kaufman Hall & Associates will have finished their work by then."

The rest of the article gives an undeniable impression that it looks like the stage is being set for even more delays on having a business plan in place for the proposed UMC hospital.

Meanwhile, inexplicably, the state's contractors continue with site preparation in the LSU Footprint.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A certain shade of shady

It appears that "NOLA Renewal Group LLC" is trying to acquire a number of larger parcels just outside the VA Hospital Footprint by way of acquisitive prescription (similar to "adverse posession" in common law states.  The lots are the site of a series of warehouse-type buildings, 2537 Tulane Avenue (above) being the largest, that were linked to the Dixie Brewery building below S. Rocheblave by an elevated connector until a few months ago.

I believe this particular LLC, which is not in good standing with the state according to the Secretary of State's website - and which has a different listed address than the one on the sign posted on one building) was also involved in the controversial demolitions of the "Treme" houses on S. Derbigny in Hoffman Triangle.

It appeared back in the spring that the LLC was trying to sell properties on S. Derbigny.  And then the entire demolition spat erupted.  The buildings were demolished, except for one.  A man who appears to be Larry Jackson, listed as a director of the LLC, also showed up at NCDC at one point and sought demolition for the remaining corner building at Washington and S. Derbigny.  The presentation was strange.

Here's the data from the Secretary of State's website - note that it's not in good standing and lists a Harvey address - not the Poydras address that appears on the sign above:

I wonder what's going on.  Acquisitive prescription is spelled out in Louisiana law - and the timelines involved make me think the LLC is not thinking about the "replacement acreage clause" in the MOU (or maybe it is...the sign didn't appear, to my knowledge, until after my post on replacement acreage went up).  But given the circumstances - for one, the total assessed value on 2537 Tulane is over 1 million dollars - this deserves some sunshine. 

This whole thing came to my attention when I noticed that the properties had suddenly been cleaned up a bit - weeds cut, trash picked up, etc. - in recent days.

Pelican Post Reviews the Kennedy Talk


The coalition that questions the current UMC plan is incredibly diverse and broad - fiscal conservatives and limited government free marketeers along with social justice and healthcare advocates, as well as neighborhood groups, preservationists, healthcare workers, doctors, small business owners, and affected residents.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Issue in The East

This, increasingly, is going to play into the fate of the proposed UMC hospital. has also been focusing on the issue lately.

Specifically, the interplay between the UMC hospital and the Methodist hospital in the East - or conflict between them, really - stand to impact the financial viability, size, and public support for the UMC as proposed:

DeSalvo walked a narrow path in distinguishing the two projects. The mayor has strongly supported the teaching hospital as planned, and DeSalvo repeated that position on his behalf at the most recent UMC board meeting. But last week she said the eastern New Orleans project "is different." The teaching hospital, she said, is a regional enterprise that will attempt to draw patients primarily from a multiparish region and, secondarily, from across the LSU hospital system and Gulf Coast.

In eastern New Orleans, she said, "We have a clear demand for a specific population that is land-locked without a hospital. ... We're not trying to be a specialty hospital but a community hospital" with an emergency department, obstetrics ward and a general surgery unit that would "take out gall bladders, do heart catheterization, that sort of thing." 

Land-locked?  What does that mean?

But here's the most interesting part - really interesting.  Karen DeSalvo mentioned this:

She also cited other assets: an existing building that only has to be renovated

Last time I checked, Charity Hospital is an existing building owned by the state that only has to be renovated.  Strange that the Mayor's deputy mayors and staffers never mention or push the renovation route when talking about resolving the UMC situation.

This also somewhat odd:

The primary service area would be Gentilly, the 9th Ward and all portions of the city east of the Industrial Canal,

The Lower 9th Ward is east of the Industrial Canal.  It shares City Council representation with The East.  But it's so functionally separated/isolated from The East in terms of travel due to bodies of water that it hardly makes sense to lump it in with that neighborhood (By car: Caffin and St. Claude to proposed UMC site: 5.4 miles, 12 minutes; Caffin and St. Claude to Methodist Hospital: 9.3 miles, 16 minutes).   It's also unclear why Gentilly couldn't be served by the UMC given that it would be roughly equidistant to either hospital site.

The raw number of hospital beds, too, shows that this town ain't big enough for both the UMC Tajmahospital and the hospital in The East:

Further, consultants working for the UMC board this spring noted that Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes, the primary service area for the proposed teaching hospital, already have 2.83 beds per 1,000 residents. The national average is 2.7.

A 424-bed UMC, the closing of Interim LSU Public Hospital and the opening of a planned 40-bed hospital in Chalmette would bring that ratio to about 3 beds per 1,000 residents. Those calculations do not include putting any beds back online in the old Methodist building. 

It's clear that something has to give - both facilities as currently envisioned won't work.  Financially or in terms of having a successful model based on metro market needs.  And the TP piece reveals, indirectly, that the hospitals would be competing for patients:

Further, a 2013 opening would allow a new community hospital in eastern New Orleans to solidify its patient base before the projected 2015 UMC launch.

Why would there be any worry about solidifying a patient base...if the UMC wasn't a threat that might draw patients away? 

So, the UMC's ridiculously delayed launch is now seemingly being viewed as a benefit or an excuse to act in a way that reinforces the sense that the city's overall approach to healthcare development is confused, unsustainable, and irresponsible.   I really don't know what comes next.

The city is also seeking HUD FHA backing for its project.  Given the factors involved and the failure of the federal mortgage insurance route in the UMC situation...I don't know that it's worth bothering with for this project.  I'm seeing some of the same fatal flaws emerging.

A Bit on the Architect of the Dixie Brewery

Nate, who's been following the blog's coverage of the Dixie Brewery sent along this note about the architect of the 1907 building:

Louis Lehle was an incredably prolific architect who designed many fantastic breweries around the US, including most of the Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, WI and the Grain Belt Brewery in Minneapolis. I live and work in Chicago (where Louis Lehle's office was located) a few blocks from a building Louis Lehle designed for the Schoenhofen Brewery. Here is a link to an image of the Grain Belt Brewery.

Lehle worked with Fred W. Wolf, another noted national brewery designer:

Lehle also designed buildings for the Blatz ( Milwaukee), Brand ( Chicago), Detroit, Eagle ( Erie, PA), Figter ( Duluth, MN), Minneapolis, and Schlitz ( Milwaukee) brewing companies.

Just remember that Dixie Brewery is not yet safe.  The VA has not committed wholeheartedly to saving it and rehabbing it at this time.  Here's how you can help ensure that this landmark is not demolished.

The Blood Center is Gone

Not the physical building - not yet.  But the entity itself - the staff, the equipment, the vehicles - they've all been relocated temporarily to a location far out in The East...miles and miles and miles away from the medical facilities that are clustered in and around the CBD.  I saw the bloodmobiles next to the temporary building - a sad little affair - as I drove by on Sunday and the lonely guard in the guard tower confirmed the location when the photo above was taken on Tuesday.

Yesterday, a few last moving trucks came in with crews to finish up.

It's absurd that this useful and critical facility was forced to move...for a destructive project with no business plan and inadequate financing.

The thing that makes the least sense is that Governor Jindal, after asking the UMC Board to look at all options for the UMC, has goaded Jerry Jones on, and the contractors have just kept clearing the proposed UMC site at the state's urging.  It renders Jindal's words about studying alternatives absolutely hollow because it effectively constrains the options on the table.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Infirmary Demolished Today at McDonogh No. 11

NOLA Defender Covers the Kennedy Talk


After several years of working within the confines of a plan that called for a 424-bed teaching hospital on a stretch of Lower Mid-City land that is currently a residential neighborhood, the three Republicans' alternative appeared to indicate that consensus on the project had eroded. But Kennedy said the idea that there was political backing for the single proposal all along was a facade.

"We have been allowed to discuss one plan, and one plan only," he said.

How to help preserve the Dixie Brewery

As of right now, we know the VA's structural assessment of the Dixie Brewery building is complete.  It's now going to a VA consultation with "SHPO" - the Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office.

It's still not clear that the VA will find the building structurally sound and it's unclear how hard SHPO will press back against any VA attempts to demolish the building (or more of the building than necessary).  Right now, there's not even an estimated date for when the structural assessment will be made public.

SHPO, as a guardian of the state's historic resources, should help to serve as a sort of firewall to prevent unnecessary damage to the Dixie building, but you need to let SHPO know just how important the building is to you and to New Orleans.

Contact the State Historic Preservation Office and let staff know that the Dixie Brewery is a landmark building that should be preserved and adaptively reused to the greatest extent possible:

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 44247
Baton Rouge LA 70804

Phone: (225) 342-8160

Fax: (225) 219-0765


An interesting story

It's hard to know what interesting side story regarding the LSU/VA project will emerge next.

Today, I learned that at least a few individuals are now calling organizations around town trying to figure out how to buy moved VA houses.  And most of the houses are still very much in transition back to fully renovated status.

In the example related to me today, the caller sought to find out how to buy a house in the greater Mid-City/Parkview neighborhood (with the specific intent of living in the house).

That's a good sign for the long-term viability of the moved houses, even if about a third of the VA moved houses remain in less than ideal condition, for some inexplicable reason.  The other two thirds are at least roofed and secured.

WDSU on the Kennedy Talk

I'm not sure why the news spot starts out by showing shots of the VA medical center...because Kennedy was talking specifically about the proposed UMC hospital.

The continued confusion about the distinction by local news outlets is cause for concern.


The double shotgun house at 2000-02 Cleveland Avenue is visible through a coil of concertina wire in the LSU Footprint, proposed site of the UMC hospital project which continues to lack both a business plan and adequate financing.  The house and the property it sits on are the subject of an expropriation-related lawsuit.

The structure has been prepped for ostensible relocation outside the footprint.

Images from the Kennedy Talk

Over 100 people showed up last evening at Grace Episcopal to hear State Treasurer John Kennedy speak on the fiscal realities of the UMC situation. And they, importantly, also got to speak as well.

A steady flow of people spoke after Kennedy's brief remarks. It was a truly diverse outpouring of emotion, facts, suggestions, questions, and a desire to do things right.  Topics ranged from healthcare to expropriation to fraud to personal connections with Charity Hospital to questions about alternatives.

The biggest consensus: nobody is opposed to the hospital, it's about opposition to the process, the site, and the lack of community input and discussion on a major community issue.

Kennedy repeatedly emphasized the fact that thus far, discussion has been limited to a single plan, the current UMC plan.  And that plan is not sustainable.

While a few proponents of the current plan showed up, the crowd was overwhelmingly in support of rebuilding in Charity Hospital and critical of the state's decision to destroy a neighborhood without a business plan and financing in place.

Kudos to Ms. Sandra Stokes for organizing such a successful event.

WWLTV on the Kennedy Talk

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

McDonogh No. 11 Watch

The many-windowed infirmary building behind the school began to be salvaged today, which is a shame - the building should have been moved, and instead it's heading to demolition.

Workers were busy inside the school itself - per the various sounds of banging and clanging that came forth from the lower windows - unboarded today.  It was unclear whether the windows on the lower ground level had been broken earlier or only today.

"“Six years after the storm, and we’re still at square one because there has been only one option, the LSU option, on the table.”

That's a quote by Treasurer Kennedy that appeared in a piece today in The Bond Buyer.

"How do you get the funding if you don't have a business plan?"

Girod Stephens just asked this question on WBOK, reviewing the June 13, 2011 letter from Governor Jindal to the UMC Board members....which makes it clear that there is still no business plan in place for the proposed hospital.

Kennedy on WBOK this morning

On the radio:

8:03 a.m. - He just mentioned building out a 250-bed facility in old Charity.

The question remains: what happens with all the properties in the proposed UMC Footprint?  A caller says that if the hospital is not looks like a land grab.  Well, it has looked like a land grab from the outset.

Kennedy rights points out that he warned the state against taking property via expropriation without financing and a workable business plan in place.

But the Governor and LSU, etc. knew what they were doing - they can now present people with a sense of "the fix is in" - a fait accompli.  "What are we supposed to do now that we demolished everything?"  It's the height of irresponsibility.

8:06 a.m. - Kennedy says what we've known all along: the state decided to shutter Charity Hospital after the storm even though it had been cleaned up and was ready to go shortly after the storm.

8:08 a.m. - Girod is now reading off some of the over 25 co-sponsors hosting the event tonight, including Inside the Footprint.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Santa Biblia"

The large Mid-City Automotive and Towing building at 2000 Canal Street was demolished today.  I caught a few glimpses of the inside the vacant structure on Friday.

A Face in the Gable

If you click the photo and zoom'll see a person peeking out of the hole where the gable vent was located in the gray shotgun double.  Crews seem to be working through several of the houses that have been prepared for moving in the LSU Footprint.

Along Canal Street

Here's a view of the VA Footprint, through the dust screen on the outer fence. Note that there's a second fence inside.

Reminder: Kennedy forum on UMC financing tomorrow

Here's a good description from the VCPORA e-newsletter:

[Click to enlarge]

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"We need a hospital in New Orleans, but it is foolhardy to go ahead with this project."

That's a quote from Treasurer Kennedy, taken from an excellent Times-Picayune piece by James Gill.

If you didn't catch Gill's column on Wednesday, you should give it a read.  It's right on the money:

It would also be foolhardy to expect LSU, Jindal or New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to admit they were wrong. Sure enough, it's damn HUD and full speed ahead, Jindal and Landrieu have declared.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eric Paulsen: UMC Apologist

The newscaster's continued, slanted defense of the UMC and Governor Jindal - without adequate skepticism - is unfortunate.

He buys the biomedical panacea hook, line, and sinker (around 15:40).  And laces it with a dose of Houston- and Birmingham-envy.  

He also cites the Cancer Center as a good sign...but says nothing about the $15 million deficit that is preventing the facility from being completed (so he's either selectively informed...or uninformed on this item).

He also defends the withdrawal of the HUD mortgage insurance pre-app, repeating over and over, quite adamantly, that HUD didn't actually reject the application (which is exactly what the state and the UMC Board want the public to think, and, as Senator Vitter pointed out, it was almost certainly withdrawn to avoid the ignominy of outright rejection).

Finally, he also says the state has over $100 million coming from FEMA for contents of Charity...saying that they have about $900 million.  They don't have it - they might have it, but that's an important distinction.

Lone Shotgun

By yesterday morning, the regal, golden double shotgun at 1905-07 Cleveland Avenue had been prepped in part for moving.  Fortunately, it only seems to require the loss of a small addition on the back of the main building.  Chimneys will still have to be removed.

It's this building, the building with green batten shutters where Ms. Ella and her husband Pee-wee, who masked Indian, once lived.

If you take a look at the photo below, ask do I know that I'm in New Orleans in this picture?  Many would recognize Charity Hospital.  But what about someone who's not a local?  The golden shotgun really does become the lone sign on the urban horizon of a unique place, a token of being in New Orleans.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Voodoo Curse...on the UMC

I just noticed this today.  It's a small sign nailed about 10 feet off the ground on a live oak tree along Canal Street - near where the Canal Street Guest House once stood.  The sign faces in toward the UMC site.

"Voodoo Saint Baron Samadi protects this property...bad deeds, bad vibes reversed"


It appears someone is walking through all the streets in the 1,500-acre "BioDistrict New Orleans" and recording the trek.

One More Down, Two More Seemingly "To Go"

The house at 1827 Palmyra, which featured a wraparound porch that extended along the length of its side, was razed yesterday.

The day before, crews had been sniffing around the building, and I happened to snap this shot - where a worker seemed to try to hide behind a rooftop air conditioner as I approached.

(Note, too, the many individual pitches to the various roof components - added on over time off the back of the house).

The two houses immediately adjacent, however, appear to be prepared now for relocation off-site.  One is the great 2-bay shotgun at 1823 Palmyra - I hope as much of the classic front porch setup can be preserved and moved along with the house.  The other is a double shotgun at 1829-31 Palmyra, which has had a bit of unsympathetic treatment over the years, but which still has great bones.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Outer Banks Saga Continues

The bar's former owner, Greg Guth, is not giving up.  He continues to wage a legal fight regarding the expropriation of his property in the VA Footprint and the compensation provided to him:

[Click to expand]

You'll note that the press release decries LSU.  The LSU Board of Supervisors technically made the expropriations in the VA obtain the property for the City of New Orleans...which was required under the 2007 MOU to provide VA with the land for the site.

News Advisory - Kennedy Event

Inside the Footprint is proud to be a co-sponsor of the following event on July 26:

Two more moved to the moving pile

Yesterday, crews began preparing Roile Jefferson's beautiful former house at 2000-02 Cleveland Avenue for possible relocation.

The similarly significant home at 1933-35 Cleveland was also being cut off at about 60 feet for potential moving as well.

If these and other homes are moved off the UMC site, they would mark the first moves of any properties off the LSU Footprint.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And then there were none

The last of the three sister camelbacks on Cleveland Avenue fell this morning.

Here's an odd shot of the side elevation of that last camelback taken earlier this week (as it was being salvaged).  The strange warped look was not an edit of any kind:

Google Maps starts to cross out the VA Footprint neighborhood

A friend sent along this image, noting the shift.  While a few ghost buildings survive along Tulane Avenue and S. Galvez on the map alone, the streets are shown as gone, as are most of the buildings.

Here's a look at just a few selected VA Footprint screenshots from GoogleMaps - before the change, back when it was dense with historic houses:

Strangely, despite the change in the street map as shown in the first map, the satellite images of the area on Google Maps still shows all the houses intact.

Mid-City Mitigation Grant Program unveiled last night

Last evening, with two security guards outside the doors of the First Pentecostal Church's meeting hall on Canal Street (brought in by VA contractor Clark/McCarthy), the VA held its monthly neighborhood meeting with residents affected by the project.

Representatives of the State Historic Preservation Office were on hand, based on a request at the last meeting, and they shared the outlines of a rehabilitation grant program for historic buildings in the Mid-City National Register Historic District here in New Orleans (here's a map that gives some rough idea of the district, LSU/VA site is shown in red).  The program is being implemented in compliance with the Progammatic Agreement that governs the LSU/VA site preparation.

While the official unveiling of the grant program will take place at the August 8, 2011 meeting of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, here are the basic, tentative details of the grant program as laid out last evening:

- The total pot of funding equals $1.4 million, made up of contributions from the VA, City of New Orleans, and State of Louisiana
- The total amount of funding that will comprise grant awards is approximately $1 million; some of the funding is for administrative overhead, some has gone to help with funding rehab of moved VA houses in the Mid-City district
- The cap on individual grants to property owners will be $20,000 - the amount awarded can be any amount equal to or lower than that
- The grants will be available to any property owners with contributing historic properties in the Mid-City National Register District, but the district will be tiered into three areas: the area below Broad nearest to the hospitals site, the area between Broad and Carrollton, and the area above Carrollton farthest from the hospitals site.
- A panel of reviewers, seemingly SHPO staff, will review applications and give preference based on a variety of factors including which tier the applicant's property is located in (preference to those closest to and most affected by the LSU/VA hospital project).  It is not clear whether the panel's deliberations will be open to the public or open for public comment.
- Owners will need to provide a scope of work with an application
- Applications will be due on October 14, 2011
- Awards will start to trickle out in about December 2011
- Owners of historic properties that are not contributing due to a building's disrepair will likely be able to apply for funding for repairs that would result in the building become contributing once again
- It sounds like the "first zone" below Broad Street will receive flyers about the grant via a door-to-door walk around, which is good to hear
- The grant will not be a matching grant; owners are welcome to match the grant amount, but they are in no way required to put up funding to get funding
- SHPO staff will hold a grant workshop for residents on August 23 and may host another at some point in September

Here are the provisions in the PA regarding the mitigation fund and grant program (which outline the amount contributed by the various parties):

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stop, Chop, and (hopefully) Roll

This house on S. Johnson Street in the UMC Footprint joined the ranks of historic homes that are being prepared for possible relocation off the site. Today, I counted signs of moving prep of some sort on seven properties in the Footprint. The list is apparently down to 15 that could move - and I'm guessing fewer houses than that will actually move off the site in the end of they do roll.

The many-windowed building on the right in the photo above is an outbuilding behind McDonogh No. 11, the infirmary, that should also be moved.

Here's a view (below) of the house at ---- S. Johnson Street before it was chopped off today (immediately above).  Note that the white portion is now gone, including the recessed side entryway on the downriver side of the building, as well as one of the chimneys.  Chimneys, however, are being removed in the buildings that are being prepped, from what I've seen.