New Orleans to officially close old abandoned Naval base

Published: Jul. 10, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some Bywater residents are breathing a sigh of relief as the city prepares to clean out, fully secure and officially close the old Naval base site.

While some say it’s a step in the right direction, others say it’s a small piece of a much larger conversation on the affordable housing crisis in New Orleans.

“It’s a threat to the neighborhood,” said John Guarnieri, president of the Bywater Neighborhood Association. “With this sweep will also be other questions: What happens with the people who are living there? And how is the property going to be secured?”

He said Bywater residents have dealt with problems stemming from the old Naval base site for more than ten years. Today, it stands as a shelter for many homeless people and it’s condition is unsafe.

On Monday, July 11, the City of New Orleans, in partnership with the developer of the property, will begin to fully secure and close the site.

According to a news release from the Office of Mayor LaToya Cantrell:

“City leaders and public safety agencies, including Office of Economic Development, the New Orleans Police Department, and UNITY of Greater New Orleans, will conduct an intensive walk-through and cleanup of the site. In case of an emergency, the New Orleans Fire Department and New Orleans Emergency Medical Services will be on standby as well.”

All of this to prepare the site for redevelopment.

“The development is really contingent on financing and historic tax credits that come into play,” said Guarnieri. “All those pieces have to really fall into place before it gets to that next level.”

Guarnieri said the redevelopment of the historic site could have a significant impact not just from a commercial standpoint, but for job creation too.

“This is a project that’ll be going on for quite some time,” he said.

He’s hopeful his questions will be answered by city officials and developers on Monday, but other residents say they have mixed feelings about the site’s official closure.

“It’s a really complicated and complex situation you know, I mean it’s so easy to be like ‘oh well that shouldn’t be happening.’ But you know, that opens up a deeper conversation,” said “Kitten”, owner of Chance in Hell Snowballs in the Bywater. “Then what happens once you move these people out of this space. So I feel like it’s not as simple as ‘clean out the Naval base’.”

Jesse Weber, another resident of the Bywater, said he’s interested in learning what plans are in place moving forward once the site is swept.

“So it’s like you’re just kicking your problem down the road somewhere else, like what is the next thing you’re doing or what are your plans afterward?”

As one door closes, residents hope another opens to address issues impacting citizens across the city-- issues like affordable housing, resources for the homeless population, and mental health and addiction support.

“I think people want something done with it one way or the other and this is one of those things just in my view that is this temporary? What are your long-term plans? Because it’s just gonna kind of be that way if you don’t have a plan with it,” said Weber.

“There’s more to be seen, there’s more conversations to be had,” said Kitten. “I hope that they are really following up on what happens to these communities that will no longer have that as shelter, and of course, there are things that need to be dealt with. There’s drug abuse and there’s violence, and there’s all of these things but again-- it’s a bigger conversation than that.”

The official cleanup and closure of the old Naval base takes place tomorrow at 11 a.m.

The Bywater Neighborhood Association plans to meet with developers and other city officials on Tuesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. at the Bywater Brew Pub to learn more about the plan and potential project timeline.

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