Filed Under:  Local, News, Politics

Judges, looking to get new courthouse, so far have nowhere to go

11th November 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Tyler Bridges
The Lens

Some 30 developers, architects and contractors turned out Thursday to hear judges from the Orleans Parish Civil District Court outline their plans for a new $105 million courthouse.

The interested bidders include Chester Engineers, Billes Part­ners, Moses Engineers and Stirling Properties. The judges plan to choose a construction team after November 22.

The judges face one major complication: They don’t know where they would build the courthouse.

So Judge Kern Reese said the bidders will have to offer their “conceptual ideas.”

The judges want to build a new facility on a patch of grass on the back side of Duncan Plaza, across Perdido St. from their current home. They received the state Legislature’s authorization in 2010 to go there.

But the judges don’t have another required step – authorization from Gov. Piyush Jindal’s administration to transfer the state-owned land to them.

“We need to settle on a site within the next 60 to 90 days,” Reese said.

He and his colleagues want a site close to their current location, easily accessible by public transportation and occupying a prominent site.

The judges need to move quickly because they face an August 15 deadline to let the construction bids. If they don’t meet it, they cannot collect more money for the construction project. Next year’s deadline led Reese to tell The Lens 10 days ago that the judges needed the Jindal administration to transfer the land by October 31 in order to let the bids 10 months later.

Reese and the other judges believe that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been working with Jindal administration officials to withhold the land transfer needed for them to go to Duncan Plaza – as a way of forcing the judges to agree to the mayor’s plan to move the Civil District Court and City Hall into the vacant Charity hospital building on Tulane Avenue. The state owns Charity.

Landrieu has yet to nail down how he would pay for redeveloping Charity. His plan seems to depend on the $75 million to $80 million that the judges say they currently could tap into and which they want to use for the courthouse. The Lens reported last week that Landrieu is requesting $100 million in construction funds from the state Legislature and Jindal next year.

The judges also have yet to finalize their financing for a courthouse. But Reese said they will come up with the full amount.

“If we had to buy a piece of property, we have the wherewithal to do that,” Reese said.

This story was originally published by The Lens (thelensnola.org), an independent, nonprofit newsroom serving New Orleans. The Louisiana Weekly enjoys a partnership with The Lens.

This article originally published in the November 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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