Bobbi Rogers feels betrayed.
Rogers and husband Kevin Krause came to New Orleans from Phoenix as volunteers to help rebuild the city after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. They bought and rebuilt a house in the Mid-City neighborhood and put down roots.
Now, their view of the future could be upended, ironically by a massive post-hurricane redevelopment project.
Two hospitals would anchor a fledgling biomedical district, a $2 billion project that could generate thousands of jobs for tourism-dependent New Orleans and jump-start a healthcare system that's been slow to recover from Katrina.
To build the new Veterans Affairs and teaching hospitals, officials estimate 70 acres would be cleared. Included would be derelict homes, a cultural center and rebuilt houses including Rogers'.
"We're the type of people they're trying to draw to New Orleans," said Rogers, 33, a computer programmer. "And then ... you find out all the hard work you were putting not only into your home but also into the neighborhood will be demolished."
Pam Perkins, general counsel with the state Division of Administration, which will take the lead in land acquisition, said property owners will be offered fair-market value for houses and commercial buildings and, in many cases, relocation assistance. But the state will be able to seize property if acquisition agreements cannot be reached.
But first, planners must settle on the hospital sites.
Mid-City was the preferred location heading into a recently ended public comment process, with a site in neighboring Jefferson Parish and in another part of New Orleans raised as VA options. State officials expect property acquisition to take a year.
But there are thorny, unresolved issues.
Some Mid-City residents say court may be an option if their area is selected. They believe officials haven't given sufficient consideration to other, less-disruptive locations.
The state still hasn't fully secured the $1.2 billion it needs for the state-of-the-art teaching and research hospital it has long eyed for the area and envisions near the new Veterans Affairs medical center.
To help raise funds, bonds must be sold in a sliding economy. There's also a dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Officials with the state and Louisiana State University, which operated the former Charity Hospital that's been shuttered since Katrina, contend damage to the 70-year-old structure near the Superdome was so extensive that FEMA should pay for a complete replacement. FEMA disagrees.
Delayed construction, scaling down or scrapping the proposed new hospital could leave a swath of open land between downtown and the proposed site of the new VA hospital, urban designers with the firm Goody Clancy wrote in a Nov. 5 draft memo for comment to city planners, disrupting what officials hope will take shape as a medical corridor that will drive high-powered economic development. The two hospitals in close proximity are hoped to provide additional business for downtown retailers and hotels and attract new residents.
Caitlin Cain, economic development director for the Regional Planning Commission, doesn't seem worried, noting the commitment she's seen from the VA to the governor's office. "I don't think one would assume one would happen without the other."
Cain and others who support building in Mid-City say the hospitals must be viewed as part of a medical and research corridor capable of competing with similar establishments elsewhere in the country.
The project would transform an area seen as struggling before Katrina hit in August 2005. Not far from the proposed hospital sites, apartments and new commercial development are rising along main thoroughfares. But there are also tough stretches near the parish prison and courts dotted by bail bonds offices and rundown structures.