After years of advocating the redevelopment of the old Charity Hospital building into a new civic center that would bring City Hall and Orleans Parish Civil District Court under one roof, Mayor Mitch Landrieu dropped the plan last week, saying in a statement, "We cannot afford the project at this time."
Landrieu cited two reasons for dropping the project: Gov. Bobby Jindal and state lawmakers were unwilling to put up the $100 million he had requested to rehab Charity and construction cost estimates had grown from $270 million to nearly $400 million.
Civil District Court judges, led by then-Judge Michael Bagneris, had opposed the plan, saying permanent walls and other obstructions inside Charity would prevent the building from meeting modern courtroom standards. The judges preferred a plan to build a new, stand-alone courthouse in Duncan Plaza across from City Hall. Bagneris stepped down last December to challenge Landrieu in the February mayoral election.
With Landrieu dropping the Charity project, it's unclear what will become of the iconic building, which has stood vacant since Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods in 2005 — or if the city will take up new plans to move out of the dilapidated City Hall complex, which was built in the 1950s. City Hall and Civil District Court now sit on a stretch of Loyola Avenue that has seen major redevelopment in recent years, including a new streetcar line, the rebuilding of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and the new South Market District, which is under construction.