Update: See also this Gambit commentary
I'm not in love with our current City Hall building and it seems clear that it doesn't quite have the capacity we need for all of our departments. However I really question the efficacy of the purchase of the Chevron building for conversion.
I wrote this late last week at SaveCharityHospital.com about attempts in the legislature to undermine the New Orleans Master Plan:
It has become increasingly clear to us that the Master Plan has been partially undermined by the failure to include the city's major development projects in its scope. Without a substantive evaluation of the impacts of the two competing hospital plans - the LSU-preferred $1.2 billion medical campus or the less expensive and faster alternative to renovate Charity Hospital - the Goody Clancy Master Plan remains insufficiently comprehensive. The failure to critically analyze other large development projects such as the potential abandonment of City Hall in the wake of the proposed purchase of the Chevron building, the Reinventing the Crescent Waterfront riverfront project, and the proposed sports entertainment district around the Superdome.
Taken individually, none of these are necessarily catastrophic proposals. On balance, however, they represent an enormous commitment of recovery dollars to projects not subject to the skeptical analysis of the Goody Clancy planning process.
The failure of City Council and the City Planning Commission to acknowledge and deal with these deficiencies has created a climate that has invited such bold moves which undermine the master plan concept, such as those attempted by Senator Murray and his allies.
Should attempts to undermine the Master Plan ultimately fail, the City Planning Commission and the City Council will be charged with approving or rejecting the version being crafted by Goody Clancy. Yet, the deficiencies in the scope of the plan will still remain and so too will public queries to the CPC and Council about the strength of the document.
Now I didn't support SB 75 because I would like to see New Orleans adopt a comprehensive plan that might help us make smarter development decisions going forward. I do think there are legitimate criticisms of the process that need to be made but those that offered the bill weren't making them.
That the City Planning Commission has given their trademark rubber stamp to this proposal to relocate City Hall is really frustrating and speaks to their overall abdication of responsibility over the last several years.
City Hall wasn't built all that long ago and when we built it, the city razed a whole section of the city to do so. It was planned. The streets were planned that way. That's why when you stand on Rampart you have this site line to the neon sign atop that building.
I'm wary of the casual way in which we're about to entirely abandon all of that. Especially since we don't seem to have a plan for that entire area of downtown we're prepared to leave vacant. Think about it. Between City Hall and the state office building (currently under demolition) and all those nasty parking lots around Loyola Ave., what exactly is planned for that huge swath of real estate?
But again, what exactly are we doing? How many more critical recovery projects will get pushed off because of some absolutely critical political legacy project like a new downtown park or a new city hall?
Are those really our priorities?
How much longer are we going to have to put off sustainable investment in neighborhood nodes because of the apparently pressing need to move money around in downtown New Orleans?
Making such a big decision to abandon large swaths of the old administrative and downtown medical district (Charity and the VA), will leave a big gaping hole in the middle of the CBD with absolutely no public plan for what we're going to do with that land.
For the City Planning Commission to be so casual about approving the purchase of the Chevron building strikes me as pathetic.
Why are they so eager to undermine the master plan they worked so hard to create?
I really appreciate Arnie Fielkow's stand on this issue. It takes guts even if this statement kind of sounds like a tweet.
"Great city needs such as the reopening and enhancement of playgrounds, police and fire stations, street repairs, etc., certainly should be top priority when competing with limited city funds," Fielkow wrote.Yes! What exactly is the vision here? Are we in the business of making this city livable for residents or are we just leaving legacies? Let's put the brakes on this train.
This is precisely the type of thing I thought a comprehensive master plan was supposed to address. I'd love for someone to get Dave Dixon of Goody Clancy on the record about some of this stuff.
Look, I think we need better administrative buildings for municipal government. I also think a monorail rising above the Mississippi River from Riverbend to Holy Cross would be awesome.
Just because something is a good idea doesn't mean we should put it at the top of the list.