Charity gutting to begin soon; real estate expert says market lo - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Charity gutting to begin soon; real estate expert says market looks good

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

A spokesman for LSU Health Sciences says the long-awaited gutting of Charity Hospital could begin in a matter of days. That work would set the stage for one of the largest building renovations ever undertaken in the city.

For more than 11 years, it has loomed over Tulane Avenue, empty and badly in need of a cleaning.

"This space is empty and is blocked off. It's kind of deterring," said Dr. Ahmad Jabbar.

FOX 8 cameras got into the shuttered hospital seven years ago and witnessed firsthand the deterioration. Any day now, the state will bring in contractors to gut and remediate the mold that has accumulated so that it can be redeveloped.

"We've got a good history of projects that are large. This is a gigantic property," said real estate expert Wade Ragas.

If it is redeveloped, real estate experts say it could be one of the biggest projects of it's kind. When Charity was built in 1939, it had 2,600 beds and was the second-largest hospital in the country.  

Historic district tax credits could cover much of the cost.

"Perhaps 30 percent of development costs can be funded by the credit, so it's very important," said Ragas.

Those credits have helped restore cities across the country and have had a huge impact in rebuilding old buildings in New Orleans' CBD from the Warehouse District to Canal Street.

"There's just an explosive amount of growth going on around these 24/7 CBDs," said Ragas.

Charity is still a dominant structure in the city's ever expanding medical complex, and the people who work in the complex say it would be great if somehow the medical tradition can still be maintained in whatever the hospital becomes.

"We have so many homeless and mental health needs. It could be a one-stop shop," said Connie Thibodaux.

Five people lined up to present proposals about a year ago, but that process was scrapped. They proposed everything from medical student housing to hotels and retail space. Now the state is moving forward on a different track, hiring consultants to analyze real estate data and launch a new search for prospective developers.

"You can do anything. Someone might develop it into condos or retail, but keeping it around would be a good idea," Jabbar said.

Real estate experts say the prospects look good.

"With the millennial generation, we are at the right place at the right time. They are very interested in not being in the suburbs," Ragas said.

But the future use of the old hospital remains to be seen. Zimmer Services has been hired to clean it out. The state  is spending nearly $6.4 million to get the job done.

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