DALLAS — New Orleans may be the next city to decide that while you might not be able to fight City Hall, you can certainly move it.
Under Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $270.7 million proposal, New Orleans City Hall would be moved to storm-damaged and currently vacant Charity Hospital once the old hospital has been converted into a civic center capable of also housing Orleans Parish district civil courts.
If the move of New Orleans City Hall becomes a reality, the city would join Tulsa, Okla., and El Paso, Texas, in transferring municipal operations to save money or provide space for downtown improvements.
Funding the New Orleans effort would involve $77.8 million of city revenue bonds, $100 million from the state capital outlay program, $33 million in hurricane recovery funds, $33 million of tax credits from restoring the historic hospital, $18 million of new market tax credits, and $11 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Funding is spread over five years, beginning in 2014 and ending in 2018 when New Orleans will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding. The new City Hall would be ready for occupancy by fall 2017.
Charity Hospital, which is state property, would be donated to the city.
In New Orleans' case, both operational savings and downtown revitalization could be accomplished, said Landrieu spokesman Tyler Gamble.
"The idea is to put a historic, blighted building in the heart of downtown back into commerce, while moving city government from outdated, inefficient buildings into an iconic, functional space," Gamble said. "We continue to work with the state and other partners to further develop this plan."
The cost and revenue estimates for the City Hall shift will be submitted July 12 to the City Planning Commission, Gamble said, part of a five-year capital plan that is reviewed annually.
The Planning Commission's special projects committee will work with the Landrieu administration to develop a draft plan that will be presented at a public hearing, he said.
The city-wide five-year plan going to the Planning Commission totals $733 million of projects through fiscal 2017.
Landrieu isn't the first New Orleans mayor to look for a solution to the limited space and high maintenance costs at City Hall and the adjacent civil courthouse.
The two buildings are obsolete with limited storage space and outdated and inadequate electrical systems, Gamble said. Both have major structural problems.
Maintenance on the systems in the 50-year-old buildings is about $600,000 a year, the city said.
Mayor Ray Nagin, Landrieu's predecessor, wanted to move City Hall to a former oil company headquarters but found limited support.
The City Hall move from the current site on Perdido Street to Charity Hospital on Tulane Avenue was unveiled June 24 by the city's property management department as a $300 million proposal. The project schedule called for $13 million in 2014, $50 million in 2015, $100 million in both 2016 and 2017, and ending with $37 million to wrap up the project in 2018.
In its budget request, city officials said efficiencies would be provided as all municipal departments could be contained within the restored hospital, "creating a better work space for the civil servants and reducing annual operating costs for maintenance."
In addition, the request said, the project would "assist in revitalizing adjacent neighborhoods and be within a three- to five-minute radius from the current City Hall."
The Charity Hospital solution was one of five options under consideration since 2011, ranging from renovating the current facilities to several potential new or purchased buildings.
One plan to extensively reconfigure the existing buildings would have cost $44 million and required the buildings to be vacated for two years. That option would have required $33 million of revenue bonds.
The state is agreeable to handing over Charity Hospital to the city if the structure would be useful, said Commissioner Kristy Nichols of the Division of Administration.
"The state has continually sought opportunities for adaptive reuses of the historic Charity Hospital building," Nichols said. "The administration continues to work with the city and would support the transfer of the property that leads to an adaptive use."
Charity Hospital was the second-largest hospital when it opened in 1939 after being built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.
The hospital's basement flooded during Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005, and the building has never reopened.
The new plan calls for filling the hospital's basements with concrete and pilings to reinforce the foundation.
The state received $478.4 million from FEMA for flood and storm damage to Charity Hospital's structure, and another $130 million for replacement of damaged medical equipment. FEMA initially offered $23 million as compensation for structural damages. The agency raised its offer to $150 million in 2008, and agreed $478 million in 2010.
Many residents of the area pushed for renovation and re-use of the damaged hospital, but the state opted to build a new 474-bed teaching hospital nearby.
The city estimates it will cost $12 million a year to operate the proposed Civic Center, including $6 million a year of debt service on the 20-year revenue bonds.
Tulsa purchased the former headquarters of a high-tech company at its new City Hall with proceeds from $74.2 million of lease revenue bonds issued in November 2007 by the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority.
The 2007 sale included $37.5 million of tax-exempt bonds and $36.7 million of taxable bonds because several floors were to be leased to private companies.
Tulsa City Hall is about 93% occupied, with tenants including Bank of Oklahoma and Deloitte.
El Paso razed its City Hall in April to make space for a downtown minor-league ballpark. The city purchased a newspaper building to serve as its new City Hall.
El Paso will build the baseball stadium with $60.8 million of debt supported by a hotel tax increase and revenues from the facility.