According to VA representatives at the VA Neighborhood Meeting this evening, the structural assessment for Dixie Brewery is complete. It is now in the hands of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
SHPO has requested a consultation, and the VA is working to set up that consultation, which will focus on the entire building, in the next three weeks. I asked if this was an official consultation under Section 106 (federal law) or just a meeting. I was told it was an official consultation. When asked, VA said that consulting parties under Section 106 were not invited to the consultation.
When pressed, VA would not even give an estimated date for when it would release the assessment to the public (I encourage any Louisiana residents out there to make a public records request upon the Louisiana SHPO to try to obtain the document).
One VA representative on hand did say, when addressing some query, that "...the building did take a lot of water."
And that somewhat ominous note brings up another issue, one that was also addressed this evening: what if Dixie is found to be inadequate for the VA's research facility needs, for whatever reason?
Well, according to the old Memorandum of Understanding that governs (or at least governed) the relationship between the City of New Orleans and the VA for the project (a Nagin-era folly), the VA could look for "replacement acreage." In other words, if Dixie doesn't work...then the City of New Orleans will provide the VA with replacement land. Now that's ominous - especially for the many people who still live between S. Rocheblave and Broad Street, immediately adjacent to the present VA Footprint.
Here's the provision, something I'd call "The Sinister Clause" - and VA, when asked, would not take the option off the table (although since VA has seemingly had the Dixie Brewery property tansferred to itself, from what I know...it's unclear whether that would moot the issue):
Note that the replacement acreage under the agreement would be contiguous to the existing VA Footprint - or within 150 feet.
Someone could also make a public records request upon the City to determine if it has received notice in writing from VA regarding VA's intentions for the Dixie Parcel - or to see if there has been any discussion of replacement acreage that would functionally grow the size of the VA Footprint as we know it, almost certainly resulting in the destruction of something else around the current site.