As buildings rise in Mid-City, old structures have new potential - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

As buildings rise in Mid-City, old structures have new potential

Old structures in Mid-City have new potential thanks to the medical district. Old structures in Mid-City have new potential thanks to the medical district.

With Mid-City's new medical complex nearing completion, there are questions about what happens to the old hospital buildings.

The old Pan American Life building on Canal Street is now open and being prepared as an administrative building for the new veterans' hospital. The $2 billion UMC-VA hospital project has benefited hundreds of workers as well as Mid-City property owners.

"There's a lot of property value increase," said resident Josef Wright. "I think there's a lot of mania at the moment, and should settle down once the hospital opens."

Over the next year, the VA hospital will move from downtown to its new campus, and peripheral businesses are expanding. The old and mostly vacant Marine building on Tulane is getting a facelift and will house a new health clinic. Work on the old Dixie Brewery is well underway, and Tulane Avenue itself is about to get a complete makeover.

"Ten million dollars of infrastructure improvements will happen here – lighting, trees," said Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell. "The whole streetscape will be more pedestrian-friendly."

Smaller, family-owned businesses like Kids Kingdom daycare have doubled in size to plan for the future.

"I think it will provide more opportunity, better clientele, more clientele should I say," said operator Linda Rivers.

The state Office of Facilities Planning says there's no new tenant lined up for the LSU interim hospital, which will be put up for sale when it's vacated for the new University Medical Center complex in mid-2015. The VA hospital has been mostly empty since Hurricane Katrina. The VA currently uses only the top two floors, and the building will be turned over to the city, possibly as early as the end of this year.

As the city cobbles together a plan to re-purpose Charity Hospital as a new City Hall or court complex, it has not announced any plan for the old VA.

LSU will remain in the Health Sciences Center, and real estate experts like Wade Ragas  are optimistic that new uses for the old hospitals will be found, especially if the city redevelops Charity hospital, which could serve as a catalyst.

"I think the city needs to move ahead with the redevelopment of Charity," Ragas said. "I think it's suitable for courts."

It's all part of a changing, post-Katrina city landscape, and it's not over yet.

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