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New Orleans spends $7M for future public safety warehouse

The 50,000-square-foot warehouse will be set to supply “resource centers” throughout the city after storms


Photo/New Orleans Emergency Medical Services Facebook

By James Finn
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS —New Orleans officials are poised to turn an old warehouse bought for $7 million into a depot for emergency equipment and supplies that could be deployed to help residents in the wake of tropical storms.

The 131,000-square-foot parcel sits in the light industrial area on Earhart Boulevard close to the Caesars Superdome. The property is dominated by a sheet-metal 50,000-square-foot warehouse with unloading facilities and a gravel lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. The city bought it from Euphrosine Properties, LLC, a firm owned by Mardi Gras World CEO Barry Kern, according to real estate records.

City officials did not respond to requests for comment on the purchase, which closed last week. But they have previously said the property will fit into a broader plan to beef up emergency response as New Orleans girds for what’s expected to be a historically potent hurricane season.

Prepping for post-storm recovery

The city plans to set up a “public safety warehouse” at the property to include storage and operation space for the New Orleans Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services and Homeland Security, Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño said in April.

At the time, officials said the warehouse was a key part of a plan to stand up and then supply 16 “resource centers” across the city where residents can access air conditioning, electricity and other services after storms.

NOAA this year issued its most extreme May hurricane season forecast ever, predicting between 17-25 named storms and 4-7 hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher due partly to record water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

Because storms are intensifying more quickly and sometimes moving rapidly across the Gulf of Mexico, emergency officials have been warning in recent months that a full-fledged mandatory evacuation of the city is increasingly less likely.

During its annual hurricane news conference, the city urged residents to prepare on their own, promising new facilities aimed at centralizing supply distribution and emergency services.

Paying for location

The city’s new warehouse is located near the heart of the Central Business District and is positioned near the Interstate-10 interchange. The area has long been popular among firms looking to buy or lease local warehouse space.

Orleans Parish Assessors’ records show Kern’s Euphrosine Properties bought the parcel for $1.5 million in 2014. Kern did not respond to requests for comment.

At the time Kern bought the property in 2014, the $1.5 million sticker price equated to a value of about $30 per square foot of warehouse space. The city’s $7 million payment last week equates to about $140 per square foot of warehouse space or a nearly five-fold increase from the 2014 selling price.

Robert Hand, owner of New Orleans-based Louisiana Commercial Realty, said industrial warehouse space is selling at a rate of about $80 per square foot in the current market. But Hand identified a host of reasons the city was wise to buy the Earhart property, even if it came above the market rate.

The parcel, he said, is a short drive from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which the city plans to use as a potential staging area for displaced people after storms. The warehouse also has unusually high ceilings that allow for more storage than most such spaces and its proximity to interstates should make it more easily accessible in the wake of storms, Hand said.

“There’s no other building in that area the city could buy that could warehouse materials to keep people alive who’ve fled to the Convention Center,” said Hand.

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