The Times-Picayune - October 8, 2013, By Paul Purpura
New Orleans now owns the former Naval Support Activity site at the foot of Poland Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's press office confirmed Tuesday. The city and the Department of the Navy completed the transfer on Friday (Oct. 4), said Tyler Gamble, Landrieu's press secretary.
"The city is working on an agreement with the developer to take over upkeep of the facility while the developer agreement is being finalized," Gamble said in an e-mail message.
The Navy closed the Naval Support Activity two years ago and posted a small "caretaker" staff at the 25-acre Bywater site, 4400 Dauphine St. The Navy, which like other armed forces branches is wrangling with tight budgets, had planned to pull out the staff by Sept. 30.
The city hopes to redevelop the site as a "resilience center," or a hub for disaster and emergency response agencies. The site overlooks the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, or Industrial Canal, and includes three large buildings that combined have about 1.5 million square feet of floor space as well as a five-story parking garage.
City officials have said the Navy would turn the property over at no cost, in what the military calls an "economic development conveyance." Last year, the city selected EMDRC Partners LLC, a joint venture whose members include former New Orleans homeland security chief Col. Terry Ebbert, to redevelop the site.
The city is still finalizing its public-private partnership agreement with EMDRC Partners, which would be the master developer for the site. The negotiations would include reaching a lease agreement for the redevelopment, said Bill Ryan, a member of EMDRC Partners. He said Tuesday he would not comment until the agreement with the city is finalized.
The city conducted a reuse plan for the site about five years ago, that included some housing. Other proposed uses included facilities to support a cruise ship terminal the Port of New Orleans plans for the Poland Avenue Wharf. For now, however, two Maritime Administration military cargo ships, the Cape Kennedy and the Cape Knox, remained berthed at Poland Avenue.
The Army originally built the Bywater installation as a quartermaster depot during World War I. It was completed in 1919. Many New Orleanians know it as the Port of Embarkation. The Navy acquired it from the Army in 1966 and, with the Algiers station, it became the Naval Support Activity, an administrative base whose tenants included the national headquarters for the Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve.
It also was called the F. Edward Hebert Defense Complex, named after the longtime New Orleans congressman who served a stint as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The Navy decided to close the Naval Support Activity in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Round, or BRAC. As a result, the Navy moved its reserve headquarters to Virginia and its personnel functions to Tennessee. Other operations at the Bywater site were moved to the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, which saw a construction boom as the Navy shut down its New Orleans base.
The Marine Forces Reserve headquarters was moved to Algiers, to become the anchor for the Federal City campus. In May, the Navy gave 118 acres and 51 structures that were part of the Naval Support Activity in Algiers to the Algiers Development District board of commissioners, which is helping oversee the Federal City.
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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.