Changes urged in New Orleans hospital plan

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu should demand significant changes in the design of a successor to Charity Hospital, consultant David Dixon told city officials in August. Dixon, of Goody Clancy & Associates in Boston, described the state’s current plan as “a suburban design that does not integrate the hospital with either downtown or the adjacent residential neighborhoods,” The Times-Picayune reported Aug. 13.

The City Planning Commission, at the new mayor’s request, had Dixon produce a 25-page analysis of the state plan, which calls for allocating 37 acres to development of a 424-bed, $1.2 billion state teaching hospital complex. Several blocks would be used as parking lots. The plan “rejects principles established in the city’s master plan, the Unified New Orleans plan and the Regional Planning Commission’s plan for an expanded medical district,” the newspaper said in summarizing Dixon’s findings.

Dixon urged the city to become more directly involved in a planning process that has thus far been directed from state offices in Baton Rouge. Andy Kopplin, the mayor’s chief of staff, agreed, saying, “If we’re going to make billion-dollar investments in the city, we’ve got to get them right.”

“It’s a polite but devastating report,” Jack Davis, a CNU board member and opponent of the state’s plan, told New Urban News. “It puts the mayor in the game after the previous mayor avoided any involvement and any protection of the city’s interests.” Louisiana State University, operator of the future hospital, was pushing the University Medical Center board to “rubberstamp all the decisions LSU has been making,” Davis said. But the board, he observed, appears to be somewhat cautious. Tulane University would like to see the hospital redesigned.