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New Orleans leaders consider relocating city hall to municipal auditorium, neighbors against it

Updated: Jan. 29, 2021 at 5:38 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans Municipal Auditorium used to host Mardi Gras Balls, high school graduations, and dozens of performances. Now, it sits vacant with broken windows and significant roof damage.

The city’s chief administrative officer for infrastructure, Ramsey Green, proposes transforming the old auditorium to city hall, which has it’s own maintenance issues.

“We’re standing at a building right now that is inefficiently draining funds from our operating budget to maintain,” Green said.

He says the city is working on a deadline to do something with the auditorium because it needs to have a plan on how it will use $38 million dollars in FEMA funding by August 2023.

“The price tag will exceed $38 million dollars to do anything at municipal auditorium,” Green said. “We think somewhere around $100 million dollars, but we don’t know we’d need a designer to do that.”

Meantime, Armstrong Park neighbors, like Leo Watermeier with Friends of Armstrong Park, he says using the property for city services is a non-starter.

“We think parks are for entertainment and recreation and an office building is not a valid use,” Watermeier. “There’s a number of reasons people are opposed to it.”

Watermeier says this isn’t the first time he’s asked a New Orleans mayor to restore the property. He says he’s spoken with former mayors Nagin and Landrieu. He says moving city hall to Armstrong Park will disrupt the area’s identity.

“I don’t really know if anybody is for it except the mayor and her team,” Watermeier said.

Watermeier does believe the city should still use the FEMA funds to restore the building. But Green says what happens next is still up for discussion.

“Are we saying, ‘this is what we’re doing?’ No. That is not at all what the city is saying,” Green said. “Remember, we’re very early, which is why we’re doing this. We’re trying to learn from the past.”

As for now, the city is launching a website next week to get more feedback.

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