Nearly 30 developers express interest in new courthouse - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Nearly 30 developers express interest in new courthouse

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NEW ORLEANS - Developers turned out in big numbers Thursday as Civil Court judges move forward with plans to build a new courthouse.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants to move the court to the old Charity Hospital, and a local preservation group has added still another element to the mix.

People who live and work near the Charity building are weary of the hulking complex sitting empty.

"It seems like it can be used for something," said Tulane medical staffer Beth Mocnel. "It's massive and just sitting there empty."

But as the mayor pushes to move City Hall and Civil Court to the old Charity, the opposition mounts.

"We would love to see City Hall renovated," said Sandra Stokes with the Louisiana Landmark Society.

For weeks now, Civil Court Judges have pressed forward with their own plan to build a separate court building four times larger than their present one. On Thursday more than 30 developers turned out to express an interest in building the new $100 million complex.

"We were gratified by the turnout and all who expressed an interest," said Orleans Civil Court Judge Kern Reese, who's spearheading the campaign for the new courthouse.

The judge's plan has been blasted by Landrieu, who says their proposal is too large, especially since the number of judges could be reduced next year.

"We want a courthouse that's worthy of the population, one they can be proud of," Reese said.

But now, there's new opposition to the mayor's plan from preservationists.

"I think the current City Hall is a great building," Stokes said. "It's mid-century modern. It's got a great presence."

Seven years ago, Stokes led the failed effort to have Charity rebuilt as a hospital. And though she supports it's reuse, she's not sure moving City Hall there is the best idea.

"We just seem to keep moving these chess pieces around," she said.

Charity Hospital's closure has had a huge impact on Tulane Avenue, where many storefronts now sit empty.

Some of the few restaurants near old Charity are of the mobile variety.

"We could always use a little more business," said food truck operator Gavin Cady.

That business could come from a new City Hall complex, but for now it doesn't appear as if Civil Court will be a part of it.

"We have to solidify the issue of a site," Reese said. "We would still like Duncan Plaza if it's feasible."

It's a test of wills between two branches of government, with the future of the Charity building hanging in the balance.

The mayor's office issued statement saying that the mayor doesn't think a courthouse that's more than three times larger than the current building is in the best interest of taxpayers.

If the courts go it alone, and build their own building, they plan to finance it by raising filing fees. That's the same method used in Baton Rouge recently to build a new courthouse.

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