BATON ROUGE – The State of Louisiana today committed funds previously earmarked for acquiring and demolishing the McDonogh No. 11 School in New Orleans to potentially move the structure off of the site of the new University Medical Center, preserving the building because of its historic significance.
The commitment comes after a request from the New Orleans City Council that the State not demolish the school and instead incorporate it into the plans for the new University Medical Center. As an alternative, the State has offered to move the school, provided it can locate a piece of land large enough to accommodate the structure, in a location off of the site of the UMC facility, but near to the original site.
“As we’ve prepared the sites for two world-class hospitals in the City of New Orleans, the State has worked with partners to preserve historic properties by moving them from the footprint of the Veterans Administration hospital and the University Medical Center,” said Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater. “Based on a feasibility study by the state Office of Facility Planning and Control, we believe it could be cost-effective to move the McDonogh No. 11 School, provided that an appropriate nearby site can be located and donated. We look forward to working with the City as a partner to identify land that can be given to the Orleans Parish School Board and preserve the school facility.”
McDonogh No. 11 School is located where the hospital’s Emergency Department entries and support facilities are to be built. Given the strategic importance of the school’s location, its age, and its type of construction, it is not possible to integrate it with the complex structures needed for a state-of-the-art medical center.
In a letter to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and City Council President Arnie Fielkow, the State identified one particular parcel of land that could accommodate the McDonogh No. 11 School. The property, the former site of the Crime Lab for the City of New Orleans, is located in the 2900 block of Tulane Avenue, bounded by S. Gayoso, S. Dupre and Gravier Streets. The State and the City could also choose to look at other nearby properties off of the UMC as a location for the moved school.
In the letter to Landrieu and Fielkow, the State requests that the City donate a piece of land to the Orleans Parish School Board, which owns the McDonogh No. 11 School. The state would then spend funds originally earmarked to purchase and demolish the school to move it to the new site, with the Orleans Parish School Board retaining ownership of the facility.
The full text of Commissioner Rainwater’s letter appears below:
March 17, 2011
Mitchell J. Landrieu, Mayor
New Orleans City Hall
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Arnie Fielkow, Councilman at Large
New Orleans City Hall, Room 2W40
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Dear Mayor Landrieu and Council President Fielkow,
As we have moved forward with the preparation for the site of the new University Medical Center in New Orleans, the State has worked to prioritize the preservation of historic homes and buildings and to address concerns of the community surrounding the site for both the UMC and the Veterans Administration hospital. In a March 1, 2011 letter, the New Orleans City Council requested that the State consider incorporating the McDonogh No. 11 School, which the Council cited as being architecturally and historically valuable, into the design of the UMC, rather than demolishing it.
While it is impossible to incorporate the school into the new UMC site, as a compromise, we are exploring possible ways to preserve this structure. In doing so, the State has studied the feasibility and believes it is possible to move the structure to a new, alternate site, off of the UMC site. Because of the structure’s size and the logistics of moving such a large building, the number of sites available to place the school is limited.
The State has identified one potential site we hope the City will consider, the location of the former Crime Lab for the City of New Orleans, which is located in the 2900 block of Tulane Avenue, bounded by S. Gayoso, S. Dupre and Gravier Streets. Based on our preliminary research, the City of New Orleans is the primary owner of the property. If the City were to donate this property to the Orleans Parish School Board, the state is willing to use $3 million in existing project dollars, which otherwise would have been used to acquire and demolish the school, to move McDonogh No. 11 onto a new piece of property, thus meeting our mutual goal of preserving this historic structure.
This particular piece of property on Tulane is ideal because of its proximity to McDonogh No. 11 School’s current site, which would reduce the cost of the move. We certainly are willing to discuss other sites the City may own. However, in order for this move to be economically and logistically feasible, the receiving site must be nearby.
The State has not yet purchased or expropriated the McDonogh No. 11 School, so the Orleans Parish School Board currently owns the school and would maintain ownership if the State moved the structure. While the State genuinely hopes to preserve the school by funding and facilitating its relocation to an alternative site, given the project’s limited resources, the City’s assistance in donating a piece of nearby property would provide a critical contribution in making the operation a financial reality.
I look forward to working with the City as we move forward together to bring world-class medical facilities and cutting-edge medical education to the City of New Orleans and the surrounding region. Should you wish to discuss this matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
cc: New Orleans City Council Members