Rapid, dramatic transformation continues at biomedical construction site

Published: Aug. 27, 2013 at 2:19 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2013 at 2:30 AM CDT
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New Orleans, La.- The dramatic, rapid transformation of one section of Mid-City is well underway, as crews continue building the monstrous biomedical complex between Canal Street and Tulane Avenue.

"What we're looking at is the world's largest hospital construction project and when you ride by and you see the massive number of cranes and activity and construction workers, it sure appears to be that," said James McNamara, President of BioDistrict New Orleans. "Two million square feet of construction, 7,000 construction workers daily for the next two and half years. That describes it all."

McNamara said construction is on schedule.

The University Medical Center is expected to open in 2015 with the VA Hospital coming on line the following year.

Numerous large buildings are taking shape across the complex site and changes are coming for the area around it.

"There is a $10 million re-pavement and construction project that's going to be following on Tulane Avenue. So, Tulane Avenue will look a lot different a year from now than it does today. It will be a four-lane street with a divided median, more landscaping, new lights," McNamara said. "It's having an impact. Real estate prices are really on the rise. What we're seeing is a lot of, now, new businesses thinking about moving into the area."

For businesses that are already here, like Pizzicare on Tulane, the progress is exciting.

"We're in the process right now where it's still building. We haven't seen the full force of it, but I've been here for over a year and a half and I've seen, each day there's an improvement to this area," said Pizzicare General Manager Lee Pillaro.

Some residents and businesses have expressed concern over ongoing prostitution and other crimes along Tulane Avenue and have called on the city and the NOPD to crackdown on the problems.

McNamara believes the enhancements to the area – especially the new streetlights – will make a difference.

When the biomedical complex is complete, he hopes positive effects will snowball.

"This is a game-changer for the city of New Orleans and it's a game-changer unlike we've ever had given to us in anyone that's alive today, in their lifetime," McNamara said. "No one can imagine what's about to happen and we've got to stick with it, we've got to follow through and continue to invest and you're gonna see this $2 billion in construction transform itself into another $2 billion worth of construction in the next five years."