Trust News

 

Preservation-friendly site plan for Charity Hospital. (RMJM Hillier)

Preservation-friendly site plan for Charity Hospital. (RMJM Hillier)

It was really remarkable that the Louisiana House Committee on Appropriations devoted an entire day this past week to a hearing about Charity Hospital and LSU’s and VA’s plans for new medical centers in New Orleans. We had an attentive and polite group of lawmakers, whom we thanked repeatedly for holding essentially the first real public hearing on these major plans. I presented the National Trust for Historic Preservation's email petition signed by more than 650 people to the committee chairman, Representative James Fannin.

The presentation by RJMJ Hillier’s Colin Mosher and Steve McDaniel on their feasibility study for the building’s reuse; resident Bobbi Rogers’ passionate statement about the neighborhood; attorney Laura Tuggle’s cautions about the costs and challenges of expropriation and relocation; National Trust Community Investment Corporation’s Kirk Carrison’s tax credit work sheet; Sandra Stokes’ overview; my observations on the plan and preservation’s role — all of these pieces came together to paint a picture designed to show legislators what was at stake and what was possible in New Orleans. It was at this meeting that we presented an alternative to the over-powering and destructive LSU-VA scheme. The image at the top of this post, created by RMJM Hillier shows our proposal, in which Charity is back in play, thereby enabling the new VA medical center to be built on a portion of what would have been the LSU site, saving the majority of Lower Mid-City's historic homes and cultural landmarks.

What was also remarkable was how little information LSU officials could provide in response to repeated questions about the financing of the proposed $1.2 billion plan. The state is already beginning the process of acquiring the properties on the preferred LSU site — yet no more than about $300 million dollars is committed so far by the legislature for the new hospital. State officials are pinning their hopes on an appeal to President Obama's FEMA and receiving an award of nearly $500 million for the damages to the Charity Hospital building. Without this sum, the financing plan falls apart.

The night before the committee hearing, we spoke about these issues before a packed meeting hosted by Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, the French Quarter's oldest neighborhood group. The meeting attracted a variety of people from all over town -- not just French Quarter types, and it showed that all neighborhoods need to be worried when bad planning like this happens. Here we presented a new flyer summing up the situation.

We are up against some serious opposition. As is so common in these cases, we are accused of delaying progress when we start raising questions or presenting alternatives. But the week was full of good press -- print and TV.

On Friday, I was the guest on (yet another) call-in radio show. It was clear that my point of view on good planning and re-use of existing buildings fell flat with my host. He focused on the bad condition of the Mid-City neighborhood, and the need to build something new. A caller said that I was being inflexible, that before Katrina the neighborhood was dangerous, that the houses on the site could be moved to one of the former public housing sites. Another caller, the leader of the movement to create the biosciences district, once again disparaged the Hillier report, and said it was time to move on and plan for the new hospitals.

I took a look at the preliminary designs for the new hospitals for the proposed sites which were released on Thursday. How depressing that was. The massing schemes didn’t even begin to deal with any of the measures we suggested in our December 31 comments as consulting parties to the Programmatic Agreement. Furthermore, there was no evidence that any elements of the two hospital plans had any relationship to one another—putting the lie to the oft-stated argument that the LSU and VA facilities would achieve certain efficiencies through shared facilities.

The designs portend the future of Mid-City if these plans are realized. The rest of the historic district is clearly at risk of further obliteration.

See for yourself what may be on the horizon (click images to enlarge):

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

A Victory for Nine Mile Canyon’s Rock Art

Posted on: January 23rd, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Art should be revered, which is why we all know the unspoken rules when it comes to museums.

No loud talking because you should be thinking. Don't get too close because you'll probably get beeped at. No refreshments because Dali wouldn't approve of slurping. And of course, keep your hands to yourself because, well, you know how it goes: you break it, you...

But what about those masterpieces that are found in our nation's backyard rather than in its National Gallery? How do we protect relics from the past that - rather than gum chewing and flash photography - face growing threats from industrial development and the dust-stirring truck traffic that it creates?

Pictured above, Utah's Nine Mile Canyon and the region surrounding it contains the nation's greatest density of ancient rock art, with tens of thousands of prehistoric images already documented and many more yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, due to ongoing oil and gas lease sales, the fate of these irreplaceable cultural resources was largely uncertain in the final months of 2008.

However, with the new year has come a new victory for what is also known as the world's longest art gallery.

On January 17, 2009, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from moving forward with leases on more than 110,000 acres of federal land in Utah, including land near Nine Mile Canyon. The decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in December 2008 by a coalition of conservation and preservation organizations, which includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, and Earthjustice.

In the ruling, Judge Urbina found that the conservation groups "have shown a likelihood of success on the merits" and that the "'development of domestic energy resources' … is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment." The merits of the case will be heard later in 2009. Until that time, BLM is prohibited from cashing the checks issued for the contested acres of Utah.

As is often the case in preservation, protecting Nine Mile Canyon is an ongoing project. We invite you to stay tuned over the coming months as we continue to be a watchful eye and a strong voice for the region's prehistoric masterpieces. And in the mean time, check out our previous blog posts on Nine Mile Canyon to read more about this story as it developed, and visit PreservationNation for additional resources and information.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Live Online Now: Plight of Mid-City New Orleans Comes Before LA House Committee

Posted on: January 22nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

The Louisiana House of Representatives Appropriations Committee is meeting today to discuss the possible reuse of Charity Hospital as a medical facility. The Foundation for Historical Louisiana and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will present a plan that would transform Charity Hospital into a state-of-the-art medical facility, spare demolition of the historic Mid-City neighborhood, and return medical care to New Orleans more quickly and at less cost less than constructing a new hospital. Visit the Louisiana House website to watch live online. (RealPlayer plugin required.)

If you're not able to tune in, today's New Orleans Times-Picayune has a good article about the hearings: LSU-VA Hospital hearing set today at state Capitol.

Check back later today for a full report later from our New Orleans Field Office staff.

***

Learn more about our ongoing efforts to save Mid-City.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Breaking News: A Dangerous Turn for St. Elizabeths Hospital

Posted on: January 8th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

In a dangerous turn for St. Elizabeths Hospital, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted today to approve the General Services Administration's (GSA) master plan for the six-million-gross-square-foot Department of Homeland Security headquarters consolidation. It is a conditional approval: the National Park Service must turn over parkland for the access road and planning for the East Campus portion must be completed. GSA must also submit a funding request for the rehabilitation phases of the project before new construction can begin - although realistically, that funding may not be secured.

National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe testified on behalf of the organization that the master plan was premature and posed extraordinary harm to St. Elizabeths. Instead, he and others advocated a mixed-use, low-impact development with a federal anchor tenant that would preserve the site and benefit the neighborhood. Representatives from the Brookings Institution, the D.C. Preservation League, Alexander Company, and the National Coalition to Save Our Mall also testified in opposition to the consolidation proposal. Peter May, who represents the National Park Service on the NCPC, delivered a moving statement on behalf of the Department of the Interior in opposition to the plan.

In the end, the approval of the St. Elizabeths master plan sets a terrible precedent for America's National Historic Landmarks. These exceptional places are accorded special protection under federal law. In the case of St. Elizabeths, those protections were overlooked in favor of real estate considerations. Such a precedent could jeopardize our most important historic places.

Read National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe's testimony and the online version of an op-ed that appeared in today's Washington Post.

- Nell Ziehl

Nell Ziehl is a program officer for the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Is this St. Elizabeths Hospital’s Last Hour?

Posted on: January 8th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

 

Today, the National Capital Planning Commission could decide the fate of the National Historic Landmark St. Elizabeths Hospital, an irreplaceable collection of historic brick buildings and designed landscapes with spectacular views of downtown Washington, D.C.

In 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed St. Elizabeths Hospital as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in an effort to raise awareness about the vacant and decaying site. The National Trust and others have endorsed the Urban Land Institute’s recommendation for mixed-use, public-private development at St. Elizabeths that would benefit - not detract from - the surrounding community (full report).

Now, St. Elizabeths Hospital faces a potentially devastating threat if the National Historic Landmark is re-developed as the new consolidated headquarters of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

For three years, the General Services Administration (GSA) has pushed an oversized, six-million-gross-square-foot redevelopment of St. Elizabeths over the objections of preservationists and other advocates for sustainable urban development. The National Park Service has criticized GSA's plan as "wholly incompatible" with preservation of the National Historic Landmark (full report), while the Brookings Institution has called the proposal a “lost opportunity” for Washington that would offer little or no benefit to the surrounding neighborhood (full report).

To its credit, GSA has improved the current master plan for the DHS headquarters based on comments from the coalition of preservationists dedicated to preserving the National Historic Landmark campus. However, we do not yet know what the Obama Administration's priorities are for DHS. The National Trust and others are urging President-Elect Barack Obama to reconsider this devastating proposal in favor of a solution that will preserve St. Elizabeths Hospital and bring greater benefit to the local community.

Read the online version of an op-ed by National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe that appeared in today's Washington Post.

- Nell Ziehl

Nell Ziehl is a program officer for the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.