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People concerned about new City Hall plan speak out

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 3:48 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Community members concerned about a plan to move City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium site will gather this evening in Treme. They say the proposals, one of which would create a new high-rise building doesn’t fit in with the area’s cultural roots.

Before the New Orleans Arena, the Municipal Auditorium was one of the city’s premier gathering sites for concerts, Mardi Gras balls, and graduations. But since Katrina it has languished.

“The auditorium has played host for so many events with so many people. It’s a performing arts center,” said Morgan Clevenger with Unity 4nolaculture.

The City has proposed moving City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium site and has drawn up several concepts, some of which could include the construction of new buildings several stories tall, and large parking garages.

“Concept one calls for a seven story Civil District Court, Mahalia Jackson Theater, which is a juxtaposition that is startling,” said Clevenger.

City officials say they are trying to meet with neighborhood groups.

“We certainly want more of that and I think that something with the mayor wants to have happen,” said city communications director Beau Tidwell.

People opposed to the idea of moving City Hall there say this area has a lot of cultural significance and it is a designated cultural district and they say it should remain that way.

300 years ago, adjoining Congo Square was one of the first places in America where slaves and free people of color could meet socially.

“What we really need to do if we as part of your world class city that we need to keep and invest in our cultural center,” said Clevenger.

But City officials say at almost 70-years-old, the current City Hall has outlived its usefulness and they say they’ve got a huge pot of money they need to spend.

“I think to there’s $36 or $38 million in FEMA money that’s on the table. It just goes away if we don’t use that,” said Tidwell.

Opponents say the city should look elsewhere.

A number of groups including the Claiborne Avenue Alliance and the Greater Treme Consortium will hold a meeting Tuesday night on the proposed plans to move City Hall. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Homer Plessy at Craig School in the 1400 block of Saint Phillip Street.

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