City Park officials are asking for more than $25 million to put towards stormwater retention, infrastructure improvements and historic building preservation as part of New Orleans’ five-year capital improvement plan.
Every year, the City Planning Commission is required to prepare a capital improvement plan as part of the annual budget. The five-year program goes toward permanent physical improvements, including streets, police and fire stations, parks, museums, and other facilities.
As part of the process, the commission receives capital project proposals from various city agencies, including New Orleans City Park. City planners then hold public hearings with each agency to hear more about the proposals and to get input from the public.
The City Planning Commission makes final recommendations about which projects should be funded, and includes the sources of funding — such as general obligation bonds, state capital outlay funds or federal funds. That funding is broken down by year.
The City Planning Commission also determines whether or not each proposal is consistent with the City’s Master Plan.
During a meeting Monday morning, City Park CEO Bob Becker made the case that more than $21.7 million was needed by the end of 2019 for a project that would “integrate water sensitive design” into the landscape of City Park. The improvements, Becker said, would not just allow for stormwater storage, but would also mitigate runoff for neighborhoods surrounding the park.
It was by far the most Becker asked of the city during this budget process for any project relating to the park.
As part of his request, he pointed to a chapter of the Master Plan called “Green Infrastructure” that allows for park improvements such as stormwater storage mitigation. Ultimately, he added, the two-phase project would retain more than 1,000 acre feet from the drainage system, reduce street flooding and insurance rates and even improve the health of Lake Pontchartrain.
If granted, $1.2 million of the money would be funneled in 2017 to survey land for Phase I, which involves diverting stormwater runoff from a drainage siphon into constructed wetlands in the park, thereby reducing flooding in Lakeview and Lake Vista. That construction should happen in 2018, according to the proposal.
Phase II, which would be slated for 2019, would center on the construction of bioswales to store, infiltrate and direct rainwater to one of the park’s large lakes.
Becker also asked for $2 million before the end of 2018 for infrastructure improvements, which would include repaving sections of roadway and sidewalk along Roosevelt Mall and Marconi Drive.
“If you look at it, it’s in really bad shape,” Becker said about the street, adding that it’s the site of several races and pedestrian entrances to the park.
Finally, Becker asked for about $1.5 million to repair historic buildings damaged after Hurricane Katrina. They include the former Caddy Building on Zachary Taylor Drive, the 1920’s-era Police Administration Building and the old maintenance buildings, two WPA-era structures that used to house the park’s maintenance department.
In the future, Becker said, the WPA-era structures would be used as commissary for the park’s food and beverage operations, and as support for the forthcoming City Splash project, a four-acre water park proposed near Palm Drive.
Ultimately, Becker concluded that the park’s board could raise enough money to operate all the programs held within it, but that there wasn’t enough money in the budget for capital improvement projects.
“We need the city, as well as the state, and others, to make continued investment in the park,” Becker said. “Because otherwise, the capital structure in the park could deteriorate.”
The City Planning Commission will adopt the Capital Improvement Program in September. From there, it will be presented as a recommendation to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and City Council.