New Orleans should consider renovating, not building new City Hall

The New Orleans City Planning Commission voted to recommend a land swap that could one day allow construction of a new City Hall on green space in Duncan Plaza. The land swap — in which the city would acquire the space in Duncan Plaza in exchange for property beneath the Civil District Court building and behind City Hall on Poydras Street — is part of a preliminary phase for a potential City Hall move that will surely be long and complicated.

But is it the right move for the city? Discarding the current City Hall and constructing a new building (on green space no less) — when there are many publicly owned buildings in dire need of renovation and many other blighted and vacant historic properties — seems wasteful and rash.

Historically, the City of New Orleans owned the entirety of Duncan Plaza, but it sold part of it to the Louisiana State Building Authority in 1955. The current City Hall building, which was constructed in 1957, has never been renovated and was included in the Louisiana Landmarks Society’s 2023 list of New Orleans’ Nine Most Endangered Sites.

The PRC encourages the city to explore renovating an existing building before building a new City Hall. After all, the greenest building is the one that is already built.

MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley is PRC’s Advocacy Coordinator & Public Policy Research Director.