VA Breaks Ground on New Orleans Hospital Designed for Future Katrinas

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still reeling from the devastation wrought by the disaster, but a massive federal project aims to make a major contribution to the recovery.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still reeling from the devastation wrought by the disaster, but a massive federal project aims to make a major contribution to the recovery. On Friday the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs broke ground on a 1.5 million-square-foot replacement medical center. Bearing in mind Katrina’s harsh lessons, the project team is designing the state-of-the-art facility to keep functioning during natural disasters. Development of the medical center, which will create 2,000 new construction jobs, is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Situated on 34 acres between Tulane Ave. and Canal Street, the new hospital will encompass 120 inpatient beds and 60 transitional care beds for hospice and palliative care and mental illness research; an outpatient clinic; a diagnostic and treatment facility; research laboratories; and administrative space. VA officials expect the hospital to receive 500,000 outpatient visits annually. “This facility will become a cornerstone in New Orleans’ medical research community, which will ensure the best care is available for our Louisiana veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric  Shinseki said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Preparedness and preservation are priorities of the project’s design, which is being overseen by a team of New Orleans-based Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Rozas-Ward Architects and Columbus, Ohio-based NBBJ. Few medical facilities in the area were fully prepared to withstand Katrina, so the new hospital will be equipped to provide critical services 20 feet above ground level. To speed emergency transportation and evacuation, the property will feature a heliport and boat dock.

On the preservation front, the project will also preserve some notable existing structures. For example, the Pan-American Life Insurance Co. building will be incorporated into the design.