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City scales back plan to relocate City Hall to Treme as opposition grows

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 10:05 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Despite the city scaling down plans to move City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium in Armstrong Park, opposition in Treme and beyond is only growing.

Monday, concerned residents met with their councilmember, as others hung signs showing their opposition.

The initial concepts included new buildings several stories tall and a 2,600 car parking garage in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

“We are focusing on building inside of the auditorium, we are intending to fully maintain the historical character on the outside,” Director of Capital Projects Vincent Smith said.

Now, Smith says, the city has realized many employees will be able to work from home, so the extra buildings and parking is not needed.

“Absolutely not. No compromise,” Morgan Clevenger with Unity 4 NOLA Culture said. “This building if you look at it, behind us. It says, what it’s for.”

Wanting the building to instead be rehabbed and used for cultural purposes, residents still aren’t buying it.

“The neighborhood of Treme, Congo Square, this whole site has seen injustice, after injustice, and we need to stop that now,” Clevenger said. “No more governmental takeovers of this sacred space.”

The city says if the $38 million in FEMA funds goes unused on the building it disappears, but resident’s aren’t arguing that.

The more the mayor delays any use of the $38 million in FEMA fund, the more it’s going to cost and the more damage gets done to the building,” Leo Watermeier with Friends of Armstrong Park said.

They want it to be used for the right thing, but many residents say they haven’t heard what their options are.

“We don’t know if there’s been traffic studies, we don’t know if there’s been parking studies, we don’t even know if there’s been environmental studies and those are the basic things that one would do when talking about bringing a project so transformative into a neighborhood,” resident Alonzo Knox said. “That’s the basic thing, it’s not a big ask, asking leadership to come and have a conversation with the neighbors, so the big question would be why is that?”

That’s why Councilmember Kristen Palmer sat down with her constituents, Monday.

“I honestly believe that the people of Treme need to be at the table and they should have been at the table from the beginning, and I don’t think that really has happened,” Palmer said. “I don’t think a proposal should go out I don’t think an RFP should have gone out unless the community was at the table helping craft what that looked like. Every time there has been a public investment below Canal Street, it has often had a negative impact on Treme.”

The city says it is coming close to the end of the proposal process. Smith says the selection and review process could begin as soon as next month.

The coalition of organizations against the relocation will host a community meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Broadmoor Community Church.

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