NEW ORLEANS, La. - With graffiti, broken glass and boarded up windows, the historic Milne Boys Home has been an eyesore for years in Gentilly.
“The community has their hands up to ask what's going on there,” said Dalton Savwior, Jr., president of the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association.
The historic Gentilly property fell into disrepair even before Katrina. But city officials said the site is poised for big changes in 2013.
“At this point what we're going to do right now is finish out the buildings and repair all the damage from Katrina and the like,” said Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant.
A city spokesman said crews are in the last phases of environmental remediation. Crews began clearing mold, asbestos and lead from the property last year. Next, they'll rehabilitate the administration buildings and cottages.
“We're on schedule to complete that in 2013,” said Grant.
The city has had challenges with people breaking into the property, even after it’s boarded up. Sunday, some of the property’s doors and windows were either broken or wide open. A city spokesman said those entry points were secured as of last week, and crews would go out to secure them again.
The Milne Trust owns the land, and the city leases it. FEMA granted the property $1.5 million to bring it back to it’s pre-Katrina state. The city allocated $5.6 million.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell was able to secure some state funding for the property. He is the chair of the Gentilly Development District.
All interested parties agree they are committed to using the property to benefit the area’s youth.
But so far, no plans have been finalized. Without solid plans, it’s difficult to secure more funding, said Morrell.
“There is not enough money to rebuild Milne to what I think it should be ultimately. There is enough money to significant move the process along,” said Morrell. “I don't think 2013 we're going to see the Milne Boys Home be reopened in any shape or form.”
Monty Burlingame, attorney for the Milne Trust, said the seven member board would like to see a charter school on the property, but admits the site has not been included in the master plan of any school district.
Burlingame said if both the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board directly reject the idea of a charter school on the site, the Milne Trust would consider other options.
Burlingame said RSD and OPSB have expressed interest in the site, and have neither agreed to or rejected plans to build there.
Morrell doesn’t believe plans to build a school on the site are realistic.
“The city's ready to move, the development district's ready to move, we just really have to resolve this last hurdle with the Milne Trust,” said Morrell.
The city said it will continue to repair the site, and get it ready for whatever it may become in the future.
“I've lived in Gentilly for a long time. I think it's going to be a cornerstone of reinvestment in Gentilly,” said Grant.
Both the city and the Milne Trust say they're continuing to develop plans for the property's future. Meanwhile, the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association would like the community to be invited to the table as well.