Every year, the City Planning Commission holds a series of meetings to get input on the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, which is the City’s 5-year spending plan for capital projects. These hearings draw little attention from anyone outside of City Hall, in fact, I have been the only member of the public at a number of these meetings. An interesting revelation came up at Property Management’s meeting on June 24; they were requesting $300 million to build a new Civic Center at Charity Hospital.
It has long been rumored that the City wanted to move to Charity Hospital, but this appear to be the first official request to do so. Property Management put the price tag at $300 million which would come from the State’s Capital Outlay, FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants (I am not sure this is an eligible spending), and bond funds (which are mostly spoken for, and running out quickly). So all of this makes it unclear how the new Civic Center will be paid for, especially since Property Management did not break down how much money was coming from each source.
Another question surrounding this is if the Civic District Court will move to old Charity along with City Hall. The Property Management budget request says yes, but the Civic District Court is currently working with the BioDistrict of New Orleans to build a new courthouse on Duncan Plaza. The Advocate just did a report on this the end of last week (Here is the link to the article).
One of the justifications for the request is that the City currently spends $600,000 a year on repairs to City Hall. Using that amount, it would take 500 years to get a return on the $300 million investment in a new Civic Center at Charity Hospital (and that does not account for inflation, discount rates, etc).
I have no idea if building a Civic Center at Charity Hospital is a good idea or not. I would like to see the merits of this idea discussed in public, and according to process that all other City Departments are using. All Departments submit their Capital Budget request to the City Planning Commission (CPC) in the Spring. CPC then schedules public hearings with all of the Departments, and makes their Capital Budget requests available online so people can attend the public hearings and ask questions about the different Capital Budget requests.
The original Property Management capital budget request does not mention $300 million for a new Civic Center. The first mention of the proposed Civic Center was at Property Management’s public hearing on June 24. Property Management then submitted a revised request that included the Civic Center request on June 25, the day after their public hearing. If you are going to $300 million (which is more than the entire approved 2004 Bond Sale) to build a new City Hall, should you let the public know about it ahead of time?
Additional information about the Capital Budget requests for all City Departments is available on CPC’s Calendar page on their website (you will need to go to the June tab for Property Management). The Property Management Capital Budget request can be found at this link (information on the proposed Civic Center at Charity Hospital is on pages 1, 18-19).
Update 7/5/13: The City looked at 4 other sites, all of which were less expensive alternatives, prior to settling on Charity Hospital, nola.com reports.
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