by Mtumishi St. Julien, February 15, 2020
Recently there has been more discussion on where to put the new city hall for the City of New Orleans. The old Charity Hospital idea has come and gone. Now the Municipal Auditorium idea has caught fire. But Councilman Jay Banks in a February 6 Advocate article was quoted as saying that “he has heard only conceptual discussions about a move to Municipal Auditorium but would not oppose City Hall leaving the CBD.
“I’m looking out my window as I’m speaking to you at the Superdome, so I know this is prime property that could be providing much more economic benefit to the city,” he said.
Banks said his first choice would be to move City Hall — along with the Sewerage & Water Board offices and Civil District Court — to a campus in New Orleans East, where their employees could provide an economic shot in the arm for the area. But he said he was not wedded to any particular idea of where city government should be located.
[ https://www.nola.com/news/article_3b96fe72-4946-11ea-9c85-9b2a2420d946.html ]
Councilman Banks can smell great opportunity for the citizens and taxpayers of both Eastern New Orleans and the city as a whole. I say this idea is a transformative one.
First, the City would realize a significant financial windfall from the sale of the City Hall assets at Poydras and Loyola as well as the Sewerage and Water Building at St. Joseph Street & St. Charles Avenue. The City would also realize significant annual tax value, both property and sales taxes, from the developments that would replace these non-tax paying entities.
Secondly, citizens would be relieved the massive inconvenience and expense of paying to park (or to be ticketed) in and around City Hall and the Sewerage and Water Board as an additional price for municipal services. The available space in the East provides adequate land for a new City Hall and free parking.
Thirdly, such a move to the East would provide a long overdue opportunity to re-engineer municipal government by providing small satellite offices in each councilmanic district and/or service attendants in our libraries to supplement the services offered at the ‘main’ City Hall.
These satellite services would help those who do not have access to computers and facilitate more ‘one-stop shopping’ for those who are unable to get the services on their home computers.
Fourthly, by moving the bulk of City employees to the East, the City can begin to provide employee healthcare savings and efficiencies through synergies with New Orleans East Hospital (NOEH) which the City owns. The proximity of the employees to the hospital and the healthcare services should reduce the rising growth of healthcare costs, provide more preventative care and create efficiencies in administration of healthcare services to City employees. All citizens benefit as city employees benefit since healthcare costs are supplemented by tax dollars.
The fifth transformative reason to move to the East is the significant economic development stimulus the move would provide for the area of New Orleans that represents at least 40% of its land mass. New small business would develop immediately to service the influx of approximately 1000 employees. The larger brand restaurants will then take a ‘second-look’ because the vehicle traffic on the main surface streets in the East would substantially increase during the day and early evening.
City Hall in the East could then leverage its formal and informal assets to focus more attention and investment toward eco-tourism assets of Bayou Savage and the defunct Jazzland site as well as the neighboring industrial park anchored by Dixie Beer on one end and NASA on the other. Creating and stimulating economic development will not only provide significant benefits for the East but also for the continued growth of all of New Orleans and its citizens.
While the argument that it is cheaper to relocate City Hall to a facility that the City already owns has some merit, the long term transformational view of investment in the East has more merit in my view. Very few people go to their investment brokers and tell them to invest their money in the cheapest stock. They usually request an investment that will return the best potential value over the long haul. This opportunity of relocating City Hall, Sewerage and Water Board as well as the Civil District Courts to eastern New Orleans has the best economic development, tax revenue generating and healthcare cost savings potential and is long overdue.