The city of New Orleans has made little progress redeveloping the portion of the former Naval Support Activity site on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the five years since the Navy conveyed the 25-acre property, which has now fallen into disrepair. The city’s plan to convert the BRAC 2005 closure into a hub for disaster relief agencies to deliver services and supplies during a catastrophe has not been realized as the prior administration of Mayor Mitch Landrieu diverted at least $40 million in federal grants from the redevelopment to other city projects, reports WWL-TV.
The city was awarded a $35 million hazard mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stormproof the site’s three six-story buildings, which total 500,000 square feet. It also received $5 million from the agency to replace the city’s fire department headquarters at the former Navy base. In May 2015, though, then-Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant asked FEMA to redirect the hazard mitigation grant to six drainage projects.
Ryan Berni, also a deputy mayor under Landrieu, told the Times-Picayune that redevelopment plans were not ready to move forward when the city had to craft a spending plan for the $35 million grant. As a result, FEMA asked the city to redirect the money, a move that was approved by the City Council.
The city selected EMDRC to redevelop the property in 2012, but it did not reach a development agreement with the Landrieu administration until late 2016. Belinda Little-Wood, executive director of the LRA until January 2015, told WWL the terms of the no-cost transfer agreement with the Navy could require New Orleans to pay full value for the site if the city fails to redevelop it and generate new jobs.
Times Picayune photo by Paul Purpura