Federal City in the News Again

18 October 2010

The Federal City project continues to be in the news. As the Marine Corps Support Facility, New Orleans takes shape, the groundbreaking of a new parking garage with 1st floor retail took place on Thursday, October 14.


Blueprint in Hand, Federal City Moves Forward in Algiers


18 October 2010

More than 16 months after urban planners culled ideas from the public in a series of design meetings, the master plan for redeveloping the Naval Support Activity in Algiers has been completed, providing an ambitious but tentative blueprint for developers to follow during the next 15 years for reusing the century-old military installation after the Navy closes it next year.

Drawn by the renowned Miami-based urban planners Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, the master plan even establishes rules governing aesthetic and building codes, as well as recommendations on energy-efficient buildings and wind and solar power generation.

“It’s our best effort to figure out the best use of the site,” said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Mize, who is helping spearhead the Federal City project. “It is a very strong model and a very strong guide for use. But it’s not an absolute. In 15 years if we had this conversation, it wouldn’t look like the master plan.”

Anchored by federal agencies

The Federal City concept calls for clustering federal agencies at the site and attracting businesses that would cater to the military and civilians who work there, as well as to the public, which eventually will have unfettered access to most of the Navy installation. The centerpiece is the 29-acre Marine Corps Support Facility, New Orleans, a fenced-in compound to be guarded by armed Marines and civilian police. Developers are trying to lure other federal agencies to share space and operating expenses with the only tenant thus far, the national headquarters for Marine Forces Reserve.

The master plan confirms that 22 structures the Navy has built during the past century will be retained, including several historically significant ones that will be renovated as mixed-use and civic buildings. The landmark Navy water tower also will be kept.

“We want the old buildings for the historical effect,” said Mize, adding that historic tax credits will be used for renovations.

Among the older structures is Quarters A, a Creole cottage built in the early 1840s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Considered the oldest existing residence in Algiers, Quarters A has been home to the senior Navy and Marine Corps officers stationed in New Orleans since World War II.

The Navy planned to build a replacement residence at the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse. But in support of the Federal City plan, Louisiana’s congressional delegation redirected that money to renovate Quarters A, Mize said. Quarters A will remain in military use as the residence for the national commander of the Marine Corps Reserve.

Officials envision a $1.5 million renovation. A contract is expected to be awarded in December, and the job will be complete by next summer, said Col. Bill Davis, Marine Forces Reserve assistant chief of staff for installations.

Education district proposed

While the Marine Corps Support Facility is the first phase of redevelopment, work has begun on the second phase with construction of a state-funded $19 million parking garage and retail space, set on a 2.3-acre site just outside the Marine compound. Next to that site will be the New Orleans Military Maritime Academy, a charter school the state has approved to open with a freshman class next August. It will occupy a Navy administration building built in 1907 and an adjacent warehouse built in 1918, both to be renovated.

Meanwhile, Harriet Tubman could be rebuilt in what now is the Navy base, using $23 million in FEMA money, Mize said. The development team, HRI/ECC, proposes to swap land in the base for the school’s current site across Newton Street from the base, and convert the school’s existing building to condominiums, according to the master plan.

The master plan calls for up to 1,400 residences, a number tied to the goal of creating 10,000 jobs at the site. That number can be adjusted, Mize said. “We’re going to get the jobs first, or a big chunk of them, and then generate the housing,” he said.

Some of that housing would be built at the shuttered Todd Shipyard east of and not part of the Naval Support Activity. But Mize said environmental studies have not been done at the former industrial site.

“One of the things we don’t know at this point is if you can even put housing at the site,” Mize said, adding that if it’s not residential, it could be have manufacturing uses. “We can sort it out over time.”

Paul Purpura can be reached at ppurpura@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3791.

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