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Neighbors of blighted Naval Base encouraged by latest proposal

Dead bodies, illegal raves and drug use have all been part of the landscape of the blighted naval base, according to neighbors, who hope the new proposal sticks.

NEW ORLEANS — Bywater neighbors are encouraged about a new proposal to redevelop the long blighted and abandoned New Orleans Navy base on Poland Avenue. 

They say the basye has become a magnet for crime and criminals since the military closed the complex10 years ago. 

“There’s been dead bodies, there’ve been raves at the site,” Bywater Neighborhood Association President John Guarnieri said. “There’s no security. There are drug users there. There’s been drug paraphernalia all over the site.” 

“There’s been a few murders, more than one,” neighbor Judy Bolton said. “There’s been repeated activity of people bringing things into the base, stolen goods.” 

Guarnieri says the latest site development team, led by businessman Joe Jaeger is proposing more than 300 affordable workforce housing units along with a mix of retail on the ground floor of the building closest to Poland Avenue. 

“Any news on progress to us is positive,” he said. “It’s three buildings, over a million square feet of space, so it’s not something that can easily be plotted out. It’s a very complicated development.” 

Bolton has lived not far from the base for the past 20 years. 

“The workforce housing would be great for all kinds of people in the city looking for affordable housing that keep the city running and it would be much better than criminals,” Bolton said. 

Neighbors are asking the developer and the city to somehow secure the massive site until construction can begin. 

“There have been a number of proposals for this site over the years, including a cruise ship terminal, homeland security headquarters, and even a film school. Bywater neighbors are hoping this latest proposal will be the charm.  

We reached out to developers of the naval base project, but our calls and emails were not returned. 

Tuesday night, the Bywater Neighborhood Association will be hosting a conference call where Joe Jaeger’s team and the city’s director of economic development are expected discuss new developments in the project. 

Here’s timeline of events at the Naval Support Activity facility.  

  • The 30-acre site was originally developed by the Army in the early 1900s  
  • In May 2005, the defense department decided to close the facility.   
  • The Navy shuttered the base in 2011. 
  • The Navy transferred the property to the city in good condition in 2013.  

It’s sat vacant and decaying since then.

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