Navy Expected to Hand over Federal City Property to Community

The majority of the site the Navy is leasing to a local redevelopment agency for the Federal City project may be turned over to the community after Marine Forces Reserve moves into the headquarters the New Orleans Federal Alliance is constructing for the command.

Awarding ownership of the property to the alliance’s partner, the Algiers Development District, would help the nonprofit attract private financing to carry out the master plan prepared for the Naval Support Activity New Orleans site, located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in the city’s Algiers section, said David Mize, president and CEO of the alliance. The authority for the Navy to transfer the site is included in the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill, H.R. 6523, signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 7.

The prospective conveyance cannot go ahead until Algiers fulfills the terms of the lease for the 150-acre site it agreed to with the Navy on Sept. 29, 2008, principally completing the new headquarters and delivering it to Marine Forces Reserve. The earliest the transfer could take place would be shortly after the command takes possession of the building later this year — Sept. 15 at the latest — but it most likely would be somewhat later before the two sides could complete a deal, Mize said.

“We would very likely convey” the property once the conditions of the lease are met and if officials believed the transfer was in the best interest of the Navy, said Jimmy Anderson, director of the service’s BRAC Program Management Office Southeast.

The Navy agreed to the provision since it does not need the support activity site, beyond the Marine Corps compound and associated housing, Anderson said. “Development around the Marine Corps facility only enhances the quality of life for the Marines and staff living and working there, so we were supportive,” he explained.

The expected transfer would not include the secure, 29-acre compound that is housing the new headquarters building. Algiers would continue to lease that parcel. At this point, it is not clear whether the Navy would ask for additional compensation beyond what Algiers already has agreed to in the original lease.

The federal alliance worked with members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation to add the language to the annual defense policy bill. “I think this will be a win-win for all parties concerned,” Mize said.

Homeland Security Hub Envisioned

The master plan for the Federal City calls for a mixed-use, sustainable development with up to 1,400 residences, along with commercial and retail space. Owning the property outright, rather than holding a long-term lease, would remove one hurdle in bringing development to the site.

The Algiers district signed a 75-year lease with the Navy for the support activity property, before signing a sublease with the federal alliance. Marine Forces Reserve, which now is located across the Mississippi River from Algiers in Bywater, will bring 1,600 military personnel and DOD civilians to the development. Marine Corps Mobilization Command also will be moving to the Federal City, adding about 300 personnel to the campus. That activity had been in Kansas City, Mo.

During BRAC 2005, DOD had recommended closing the support activity and shifting its missions elsewhere. Instead, the BRAC Commission voted to realign the installation if the state secures financing for the Federal City and breaks ground on a new complex by September 2008; both conditions were met.

The Federal City project is intended to be a hub for federal agencies, including military and non-military elements, and contractors involved in homeland security and emergency management. Agencies with stringent security requirements, such as the Department of Homeland Security, likely would be attracted to the secure zone of the property, with other agencies needing to provide more convenient access to customers moving to the other portion, Mize said.

Mize said it is too soon to announce the names of other tenants moving to Federal City. After September, though, the alliance most likely would have multiple prospects it could announce, including federal tenants for the secure compound and retail tenants for the other section.

“We have a lot of irons in the fire,” he said.

East Bank Site Advances

Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development this week approved the reuse plan for the 25-acre Naval Support Activity East Bank site in Bywater. The plan calls for 2.5 acres to be used for permanent supportive housing for the homeless. The property is slated to house a disaster management center and essential personnel during a catastrophic event, store essential supplies and equipment, and provide space for agencies to deliver services associated with disaster management and recovery.

“The concept of a centralized disaster management center was suggested in a public meeting and that became the fundamental model explored by the planning team,” Belinda Little-Wood, executive director of the NSA New Orleans Task Force, said in a written statement.

Reuse of the east bank property could create up to 1,600 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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