NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The media will get its first look inside the soon-to-open $1.1 billion University Medical Center on Wednesday.
The medical complex that has been under construction between Canal Street and Tulane Avenue is set to officially open in August, but it's already spurring higher property values and new construction in nearby neighborhoods.
"We're hoping that it's going to boost business a little bit more," said Dwana Terrance, manager of Anita's Grill on Tulane Avenue. "All it can do is help business. It can't hurt business, and we're looking forward to it."
Terrance can't wait until the new LSU teaching and research hospital opens its doors. It could provide an opportunity for the restaurant to return to round-the-clock operation. That has not been the case since Hurricane Katrina.
"Give us the opportunity to open for longer hours, hopefully back to 24 hours," Terrance said.
UMC is not the only bright spot. Next door, construction on the new VA Medical Complex is well underway, and Mid-City neighborhoods have the look and feel of anticipation.
"We saw a lot of people come in and buy up a lot of rental property expecting rents to go up. Obviously property values have been on the climb for the past couple of years, and we think that trend is going to continue," said Aaron Dare, a broker with Tommy Crane Real Estate.
And there is growing demand from people who want to live in Mid-City.
"There's pent-up demand because there is lack of supply," Dare said.
He pointed to new home construction that commands hefty prices. Some new residences in the area have a $200-per-square-foot cost.
"We're seeing numbers as high as $300-plus per square foot in the best locations in Faubourg St. John in Mid-City," Dare said.
Of course, work on the medical complexes have already helped the local economy by creating hundreds of construction jobs. The hospital is expected to support 2,000 permanent jobs.
And even before either hospital opens businesses are anxious to have Tulane Avenue as part of their address.
"We were told that on the corner over here, there's a possibility that there may be another restaurant right there," Terrance said.
"We're seeing restaurants pop up - it's been just fantastic for the area. It's almost as if some locals are rediscovering the area," said Dare.