On Tuesday, we learned that LSU is going to desperate lengths to control information and prevent a transparent airing of facts about Charity Hospital. A state legislative sub-committee scheduled a tour of the historic building this week, a development which gave us hope that the legislature would grapple head-on with the question of financing for a public health care and medical education facility for New Orleans.

Our hopes rested on the presumption that the legislators, on their tour, would have the benefit not only of hearing LSU's side of the story about the condition of the long-shuttered hospital, but that they would also hear from a representative of RMJM HIllier, which had made its own extensive study of the Charity building. Released in August, the Hillier study was commissioned by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana at the direction of the state legislature through a resolution passed unanimously in 2006. The study concluded that the Charity building is eminently suited to support a 21st-century hospital within its sturdy shell, at a cost savings of 22% and at least two years faster than building a new hospital on the Mid-City site. These findings cast serious doubt on the decision announced by LSU on November 25 to build a new hospital, and thus the study has been the target of repeated attempts by LSU and other state officials to discredit or minimize it.

Tuesday's action -- LSU spokesman Charles Zewe vociferously objecting to the presence of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and RMJM Hillier, and preventing their participation in the tour -- seemed a desperate act. Later that evening, Governor Bobby Jindal, when asked whether the public and media ought be to able to get inside the Charity Hospital building to see it for themselves, said, yes, he agreed -- and would talk to LSU. We hope the state's chief executive does not need LSU's OK to make this decision final.

Local television coverage of this development can be found here.

***

Take action now -- write to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other decision-makers and ask them to save Charity Hospital and its surrounding neighborhood.

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.

Breaking News: BLM Announces Lease Deferrals in Nine Mile Canyon

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Left in the dust? Industrial truck traffic caused by lease sales threatens rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

Left in the dust? Industrial truck traffic caused by lease sales threatens rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

Plans change, and yesterday they started to change in our favor.

In a blog post on November 7, 2008, we reported that the Bureau of Land Management was reviving plans to sell oil and gas leases in wilderness areas in eastern Utah before the end of the year - a project that could include tens of thousands of acres in and around Nine Mile Canyon. As many of you know, Nine Mile Canyon is an unparalleled cultural resource with over 10,000 rock art images on more than 1,000 panels. Projects like these threaten the canyon's irreplaceable resources due to the ever increasing dust, chemical suppressants and vehicle emissions associated with industrial truck traffic.

Despite the fact that the December 19 target date for the lease sale is inching closer and closer, an important announcement yesterday demonstrates that it is not too late to take a step in the right direction.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation both commends the Bureau of Land Management for deferring eight of the approximately twenty leases planned for sale in and near Nine Mile Canyon, and urges the agency to continue to make decisions that protect the at-risk resources. The deadline for objections to the lease sale is today, and, as noted in a Salt Lake Tribune article that ran yesterday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be filing an official protest (which will be available online soon) arguing for deferrals for the sensitive tracts below the canyon's rim that remain on the lease list.

The lease list will be finalized by December 12. As we continue to monitor this sale and report on critical changes, we invite you to visit our Nine Mile Canyon page to learn more about our work in the resource-rich region and to download a lease sale map released yesterday by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

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.

 

Back in May, before we were aware of the danger the nation’s economy was truly in, we named California’s State Parks to our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places when the state’s budget woes led to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recommending drastic cuts that would have closed 48 parks. Changes to the state’s budget, along with increased user fees, kept the parks open, but California’s woes have proven, sadly, not to be unique. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois announced that earlier-suggested closings of seven parks and a dozen historic sites would go forward, and our local partner, Preservation New Jersey, has posted updates to their blog about site closings in the Garden State.

Yesterday, in his remarks at a governor’s conference in Philadelphia, President-elect Barack Obama made it clear that the risk the economic downturn poses to our country’s heritage has not gone unnoticed – he included the closure of historic sites in a list of the difficult choices being made on the state level. (The mention comes at 2:27 in the video below.)

California, Illinois, and New Jersey are not alone in having their state parks and historic sites threatened by the economic downturn – it’s a nationwide situation. Share what’s happening where you live below.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

 

Catching up on the news within the Preservodome after a long Thanksgiving weekend..

New Orleans Hospital Complex: Spectacular or a Disaster?: News is spreading about the Charity Hospital announcement, hopefully this is not the end of the discussion. [International Herald Tribune]

Red Revival: While that news may not be very positive, New Orleans does have another post-Katrina development that can viewed as a good thing. [Times-Picayune]

Giving Thanks: I'd like to give thanks to Vince Michael and his blog Time Tells. Always offering a fresh, unique perspective on a variety of topics, here he talks about what he is thankful for this holiday season--along with something he is not thankful for. [Time Tells]

History-Cosmetics Accomplished: 'The government building and cultural center of the former German Democratic Republic DDR, the "Palast der Republik" has been fully dismantled these days.' One of the cooler looking buildings from the DDR-period, the bronze and mirrored glass structure has been demolished and the site has now been cleared for the rebuilding of the Prussian era Stadtschloss, along with the "Humboldt-Forum" interior. This is rather interesting for a society and culture that is obsessed with the idea of preserving and remembering a traumatic past. Has the German Bundestag decided that other "traumatic pasts" can simply be paved over and now forgotten? While many disagree with and were deeply affected by the socialist/communist state, the building and this period are still part of Germany's history, and help tell the profoundly unique tale of Berlin. [anArchitecture]

Infrastructural Domesticity: A crane operator who has lived in the world's soon-to-be tallest building has lived in said building for over a year? With all the fascinating development going on in the Emirate city of Dubai, I'll believe it. [BLDGBLOG]

Cohabitational Living in Brooklyn: "More modest apartments than the original developers intended and to fill them with families whose lives revolve around the courtyard and 6,000 square feet of common space where residents can cook together, play together, do woodworking or take an art class together." [Tree Hugger]

Re-imagining Stockholm's Slussen: "A joint project between the Swedes at Nod Landscape Architects and Danes at BIG Architects is set to transform Slussen, Stockholm’s city center, with a massive pedestrian-friendly makeover. Currently Slussen is an interwoven mess of roads with no room for pedestrians or cyclists. The proposed project will transform the area into a multi-layered, multi-use intersection allowing walkers and bikers access to waterfront strolls and gas-free travel. The layered design will also incorporate shops and cafes, reviving Stockholm’s main artery." [Inhabitat]

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.

 

Pictured left to right: State Rep. Karen Carter Peterson (partial), Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Dr. Edward Blakely, State Rep. J.P. Morrell, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (Photo: Michelle Kimball)

Pictured, from left: State Rep. Karen Carter Peterson (partial), Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Dr. Edward Blakely, State Rep. J.P. Morrell, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (Photo: Michelle Kimball)

The short week before Thanksgiving was dominated by Tuesday’s announcement by the Veteran's Administration and Louisiana State University that the institutions had selected the sites for their new medical facilities. As feared — but as expected — they chose the Lower Mid-City sites, opening the doors to the worst possible scenario. It has been one year since the public learned of the secretly-confected deal the city struck with the VA to present it with a construction-ready site — if the VA chose the RPC site, named for the Regional Planning Commission, which has so artfully carried out this exercise in misguided planning.

The morning of the announcement I appeared on WWL-TV’s morning show standing on the neutral ground of S. Galvez, near Deutsches Haus, which is the dividing line between the two sites. Earlier, Kurt Weigle, executive director of the Downtown Development District, had told the reporter that “Charity is in no shape to open as a hospital.” Further, he contended that buildings have a “life-cycle,” and that Charity had exceeded its life-cycle for use as a hospital. My response was to point out that New York City’s Chrysler Building dates to 1930 and the Empire State Building to 1931, and that no one was talking about those buildings — of the same era and type of construction as the 1939 Charity Building — having reached the end of their “life-cycles” as office towers.

The press conference announcing the site selection took place in the mayor’s press room at City Hall. Sandra Stokes of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Michelle Kimball, Bobbi Rogers, and I were among the attendees. Before the event began, it was announced that if anyone was not with the media, he or she must leave, because “this was a press event for the media only.” We didn’t leave. During the press conference, everyone extolled the collaborative and inclusive process leading to this decision — apparently not realizing that minutes before, the citizens had been asked to leave.

At the press conference, Dr. Ed Blakely, director of the Office of Recovery and Development Administration, was asked whether any houses on the sites would be saved. Dr. Blakely replied, “We will save all of the historic fabric of the neighborhood… Demolition is only the last resort.” Blakely had evidently not been briefed on last week's executed programmatic agreement which, at most, would enable the moving of no more than 20 historic properties (of a total of 165). Perhaps his conception of saving historic fabric is to see it pried off of buildings and hauled away in dump trucks.

LSU, FEMA, and other state representatives could offer no new information on how LSU proposed to finance its estimated $1.2 billion project. Assurances were given by Paul Rainwater of the Louisiana Recovery Authority that if the state couldn’t “seal the deal” with FEMA on the amount of recovery money the state sought for damages to the Charity building by January 20, negotiations would continue into the Obama administration. It was reported this week that the state aniticipates at least a $1.3 billion hole in next year's budget.

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.