Dec 132011
 

An aerial view of the DePaul medical campus next to Audubon Park in the Upper Hurstville neighborhood. (via maps.google.com)

Concerned that Children’s Hospital might one day develop the tranquil DePaul mental-health campus next to Audubon Park into a full-fledged hospital complex, a group of neighbors made a concerted effort before the city Tuesday to halt those changes before they happen.

Established in 1883, the six-block De Paul site has long kept a park-like character that residents said is appropriate for its use as a mental-health facility.

“Right now it’s a fairly benign neighbor,” said Jay Seastrunk, an architect who lives across Henry Clay Avenue from the site. “Not a lot goes on to impact the neighborhood.”

A proposed change to the city’s Future Land Use Maps in the Master Plan would designate the site for “institutional” uses, however — the same category used for other major hospitals. During a public hearing Tuesday on all the proposed changes to the master plan, Seastrunk displayed aerial photos of Touro Infirmary and Oschner Baptist to show the dense development on the hospitals’ blocks, compared to the spacious, green DePaul site.

How a new hospital would affect Audubon Park should be a citywide concern, neighbors said.

“We’re not opposed to redevelopment of that property,” said Karen Duncan, president of the Upper Hurstville Residents’ Association. “We simply want it to retain low-density.”

Children’s Hospital has said that it bought the property as an investment with no immediate plans for it, and that the “institutional” classification was a suggestion of the city’s planning staff — not a request by the hospital. But when the association requested a meeting, Children’s Hospital replied that it would rather wait until the land-use issue had been decided, according to a letter from Duncan to the planning commission.

In the long-term, the neighbors propose the creation of a custom land-use classification that better accommodates both the medical use of the facility and its quiet character. In the short term, the property should not receive an institutional designation that will give it free reign to redevelop, neighbors said.

“The only solution is to leave it as residential, so the owner of the site would have to come to the neighborhoods to negotiate if they want to increase the use,” said Glenn Adams of the Audubon Area Zoning Association. “It’s been a very low-key, good neighbor historically, and we want to keep it that way.”

No one from Children’s Hospital spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, and the planning commissioners received the comments without reply. Another public hearing on the changes will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 10.

Other Uptown land-use issues that received comments and some opposition Tuesday were a series of requests by Tulane University and an apartment complex at the corner of State and Tchoupitoulas. To read our live coverage of Tuesday’s meeting, click “Replay” in the box below.

  • Ray P

    Would a hospital surrounded by a 19th century brick wall really be so bad? Should the added business to the city and a little more competition in the healthcare industry really take a backseat to the handful of neighbors who don’t want to see a couple more cars per hour drive down their street?

  • Rachel

    Agree with neighbors that the low density of this site is most appropriate given location near homes and Audubon Park. Yes, this is a handful of neighbors (any site, really, is) – but they didn’t buy in this lovely neighborhood so they could wind up living next to East Jeff. The traffic and parking impact would be significant and the overall look of the premises and noise levels would also change a lot. Hopefully a compromise can be found that allows continued use as a low density medical site.

  • iAMamused

    The property has been used in an institutional aspect since before any of these people owned their property. IT STILL IS!!!! There is NO reason to define it as residential. If the people in the neighborhood don’t like it they should have realized that when they bought their property. This re-zoning of property that is obviously being used in a commerical/institutional use currently to residential is ridiculous. If they want to define it as some other type of medical with density restrictions (max building height/SQ footage) then fine but to put it under residential hamstrings the owners. There is no legal justification to force a change in the zoning to a residential use if the property is still being used in an institutional/medical manner. No matter how much the residents want that site is never going to be single family homes. Would they rather have a condo complex?

    The people in that neighborhood need to get a life. They live in a city not the north shore. They proved their idiocy over the debacle with the Sonniers. Parking and traffic are part of city life. The suburban type requirements on parking are stifling growth.

  • Robyn Flanery

    This campus should be exactly what it was built to be: a mental inpatient and outpatient facility. Our city CLEARLY needs this. The lack of good mental health care is obvious and relative to the amount of CRIME.

    GET REAL.