Preservationists will love this case.
The world’s seventh largest architectural firm versus the State of Louisiana, both arguing over the future of a 1939 art deco building and the fate of an entire neighborhood.
If you haven’t already heard, the State and the Feds are apparently thinking about entering into this great deal in which they raze an entire neighborhood in New Orleans (one of only a handful of neighborhoods in the State listed on the National Register of Historic Places) in order to build a massive new medical campus for LSU and the VA.
The only problem is that, currently, in the middle of town, nestled in between the Tulane School of Medicine, the existing VA, and the existing LSU Medical School, there sits the now-vacant Charity Hospital. It’s a behemoth of an art deco building. Its bones are solid, and it’s ripe for renovation.
Quoting from Eli (bold mine):
LSU has argued that their teaching hospital needs to be connected to the VA. Why? Why do the hospitals need to be connected? Are they sharing facilities?
Not really. In fact, there is no compelling reason why these hospitals need to be directly adjacent instead of two blocks away.
What is it about the Charity building that makes it incongruous with a modern facility?
Nothing. In fact, the RMJM Hillier plan does not plan to preserve Charity’s interior or anything about the outdated ward layout. They propose preserving the solid limestone exterior while building an entirely brand-new facility inside.
LSU has never taken the time to properly evaluate the structure of Charity. One of their major claims by LSU is that Charity is unsound structurally because of rusted connectors in the limestone shell of the building.
In fact, RMJM Hillier took a thermal image of the building and found that the building wasn’t even constructed with connectors.
And so on and so forth.
Before we spend 1.2 billion public dollars and destroy an entire neighborhood (a neighborhood, by the way, that includes many homes that have been recently renovated with taxpayer subsidization), perhaps we should seriously study alternatives.
Oyster found this instructive video from RMJM Hillier:
Here is the executive summary of RMJM Hillier’s report. Quoting (bold mine):
The RMJM-Hillier Design Team has looked at many critical factors in this feasibility study, and we have determined that all of them can be resolved in a positive way. Naturally, there is a significant cost to doing that, but we believe the cost of resolving any issue will be far less than the cost of a comparable new building.
Oh and by the way, by “far less than the cost of a comparable new building,” they mean $136,000,000 less.