Cantrell Open to Alternatives for City Hall, Municipal Auditorium
NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she is reconsidering plans to move City Hall from Perdido Street to the empty and blighted Municipal Auditorium, originally built in 1930 and out of use since Hurricane Katrina.
“Over the past several weeks we have increased the engagement process about what should be done with Armstrong Park, City Hall, and the Municipal Auditorium in a holistic, productive way,” said the Mayor in a statement. “As part of that process, last night we heard from many of the neighbors and other residents who demand and deserve to have their voices heard. This ongoing dialogue is healthy as we continue our progress on such a vital issue. We know that we must obligate the money for the Municipal Auditorium, and that has to be done before the end of this year to stay on schedule. Obligating the money and getting FEMA to pay for the project management and architectural engineering work is part one. We must move that process forward.”
Cantrell said moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean City Hall will relocate to the Auditorium. Instead, she said, her objectives are to secure FEMA funding for whatever will happen at the Auditorium and make a plan for getting city employees out of a “non-functional” building on Perdido Street.
“I am open to feasible alternative proposals, but I will not allow the Auditorium to be demolished by neglect,” she said. “I want to be clear about one thing: I have remained resolutely committed to all of our communities, just as I have during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have always promoted our beloved city as the most Afro-centric city in the United States, and the role that our culture bearers and our Black communities have played in our growth. I have not and will not abandon them, now or ever.”
The Mayor said she wants to be proactive and collaborative.
“That is why I am open to creating a commission to publicly review all of the options – starting at the beginning of the year and which would make a recommendation to the administration,” she said. “As we consider this and other options, I plan to meet with organizational leadership to further this dialogue.”
One reason for the change of plans is resistance to the idea from nearby residents.
Amy Stelly, a historian and advocate for removing the Claiborne Overpass that runs through Treme, said the City displaced residents during a controversial “urban renewal” project in the 1960s. The land around the Municipal Auditorium was ultimately used to create Armstrong Park.
“Eminent domain was widely used, people were removed,” she said on a recent Biz Talks podcast. “So I have to say now the city’s plan to actually put City Hall in the Municipal Auditorium is another sore spot in the community. This is not something that the Treme community wants because it continues that tradition. It’s built on racist planning. I mean, they declared Treme a slum because it was a minority neighborhood and it’s also close to downtown. So we need to begin undoing some of these planning decisions that have led to a painful past in this community.”