New Orleans Biomedical Campus Ignites Preservation Battle

Mark Guarino investigates the controversial construction of an expansive new development in the historic Lower Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans.

Officials hope that BioDistrict New Orleans, a 1,500 acre medical and science corridor, will help to diversify the city's economy away from tourism, writes Guarino. A new veterans hospital was in the works before Katrina hit, but after the storm damaged the existing facility, plans were was accelerated and expanded. Additionally, the site will now include a 424-bed medical teaching facility as well as a new medical center and teaching hospital for Lousiana State.

However, 265 historic homes in the area, which is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, stand in the way of the project, writes Guarino. Some have already been demolished, though at least 80 are being relocated by a non-profit group. With further demolitions on the way, the project is drawing fire from preservationists, writes Guarino:

"Critics say the project is a slap in the face of residents who spent three years after Katrina using federal Road Home funds to fix up their homes...The planned district is described by Sandra Stokes, executive vice chair of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana in Baton Rouge, as 'suburban sprawl in the most culturally significant urban environment in the US.'

'You're not revitalizing your downtown,' she says. 'You're evacuating your downtown and calling it economic development.'"

Full Story: New Orleans makeover: economic boost or loss of a historical legacy?

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