The renovation of the landmark Bohn Ford building on Broad Street for use by the Odyssey House was hailed Monday morning not only as another major step forward in the revitalization of Broadmoor’s commercial corridor, but also the city’s fight against opioid addiction.
The Rhodes family had originally bought the shuttered Bohn Ford building shortly before Hurricane Katrina with the intention of renovating it themselves as a new headquarters for their funeral home next door. Flooding in Broadmoor after the levees broke following the storm heavily damaged both buildings, however, so the family concentrated on restoring their original Washington Avenue building first while seeking a new occupant for the Bohn Ford structure.
The $14 million renovation of the historic Bohn Motor Company building at 2700 South Broad has already begun and will take about a year to complete, officials with the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership said at the groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning. When it is complete, the Odyssey House addiction-treatment provider will become the anchor tenant of the 41,000 square foot building, which will also include room for other commercial tenants, officials said.
The fight against opioid addiction is a priority in Louisiana as it is across the country, said Gov. John Bel Edwards. When he expanded Medicaid to 464,000 members of the working poor in the state, it allowed 17,000 of them to get treatment for addiction disorders, he said. In the last year, however, other policy changes have actually brought a 40-percent decrease in opioid prescriptions, and the number of pills per prescription decreased 25 percent, Edwards said.
“It is a public-health emergency,” Edwards said, praising President Trump for recognizing it as such and urging Congress to allocate money to fight it.
In addition to the health benefits, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he is personally inspired by the restoration of such an important building in the neighborhood where he grew up. His childhood home was two blocks away, and he described the food marts, theaters, and even his father’s law office that surrounded the important structure.
“To see this iconic building — that was run by the Bohn family for so long, that used to anchor a really stable, wonderful neighborhood — begin to come back into fruition from the work that a lot of you have put together is just incredibly heartening to me,” Landrieu said.
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, who lives nearby and currently represents the area in her District B seat on the City Council, agreed that the Bohn Ford building was a central node in the Broadmoor revitalization. The Odyssey House project will also serve to make the community safer by directly addressing the addiction that drives so much violence, Cantrell said.
“I’m excited that we now have the renewed focus on drug addiction,” Cantrell said. “As we are combating addiction in our communities, as it relates to violent crime, we cannot combat it without providing our people with services.”
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond agreed that the new facility will save lives in New Orleans.
“We’ve now realized after 30 or 40 years that it is a mental-health problem and a health epidemic and we are now treating opioids with hugs and kisses and treatment,” Richmond said. “We treated crack cocaine with mandatory minimum sentences, and we’re still paying for that today. But whatever it takes, I’m glad that we’ve realized it on the federal level, and our focus is to make sure that those resources come to support our new mayor so that we can keep moving this city forward.”
The project is being financed in part by “New Market” tax credits that officials noted are jeopardized by current tax bills in Congress. The Gulf Coast Housing Partnership is the development partner, and F.H. Myers is the contractor.