This week the architectural firm of RMJM Hillier released its report on the condition of the Charity Hospital building in New Orleans. The firm had been engaged by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, a National Trust statewide partner, to assess the building's structural condition and its potential to return to use as a modern hospital. Hillier's response is unequivocal: "We believe that this venerable landmark can have a great future as a world class medical facility that will symbolize the rebirth of New Orleans." Earlier this year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Charity Hospital and the adjacent neighborhood on its annual list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The report states that the cost to create a 21st-century hospital within this 1938 Art Deco structure would be $484 million. To acquire property and construct a comparable facility from the ground up would cost $620 million, according to figures provided by VJ Associates, an experienced estimator of hospital and historic preservation projects. In addition, the work to reopen Charity Hospital could be completed in three years versus five years for new construction.
This documentation and analysis will play an important role in the on-going discussions about what medical care in New Orleans will look like and how historic buildings and neighborhoods will be impacted.