NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Starting this week, LSU health leaders say the clean-up process will begin at Charity Hospital, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina.
The multi-million-dollar project has sparked speculation about furture uses for the facility and how it will affect the Central Business District.
"We're excited. We've been wanting this for 10 years now," said Jerry Jones who heads up Facility and Planning for LSU Health Sciences.
Cleaning the million-square-foot structure won't be easy.
"All the desks, the chairs, loose medical equipment all has to be taken out of the hospital," said Jones.
The plan is to spend more than $6.3 million to empty out the building that was flooded and has sat idle for more than a decade. The state will also spend $487,000 to empty out the L&M building next door. Eventually, the state wants to make both buildings viable again.
"I think Charity is the most important historical building left in the city, and you have to bring it back to commerce," said developer Pres Kabacoff, who was one of four people who submitted proposals last year to rebuild Charity. That process was scrapped so the state could hire an architect to oversee the cleanup, and Kabacoff said the market has changed.
"With all the tax changes, the value of your incentives have gone down dramatically. And there has been an overbuilding so you can't get the same occupancy. So from a development point of view, there's a large gap," Kabacoff said.
To make the project viable, Kabacoff suggests that empty buildings on the Gravier Street side should be cleared out. He also said there needs to be some sort of attraction on the Canal Street side of the complex.
"I think you need major retail on Canal Street," said Kabacoff.
Cleaning out the hospital is just the first step in a lengthy process. There is mold and asbestos that must be removed before any redevelopment can begin.
"It is not a safe place to be. We will make it safe once we get out of there," said Jones.
The massive hospital could take years to be redeveloped, if everything falls into place.
"It's worth doing because it's an important building," said Kabacoff.
The process begins Tuesday (Jan. 10) when cleaning crews move in. The work is expected to take six months, and the contents of the building will be destroyed or and sold as scrap.