Construction of coastal center aims to reinvent Tulane’s presence on the riverfront

Kate Jamison, Online News Editor

Construction is underway for phase one of the Tulane Riverfront Initiative for Applied Coastal Sciences and Engineering. The initiative aims to promote economic and environmental revitalization through a new “River and Coastal Center” which will be the Tulane home for coastal applied sciences and engineering on the riverfront in New Orleans. The center is expected to be completed by July 8.

The new building is located on the Mississippi River in between Mardi Gras World and the Port Administration building. The architect on the project, Mihnea C. Dobre, said the industrial setting of the center presented a challenge for the design.

“This is a fairly small project, it’s like 5800 square feet, so a lot of the challenge architecturally was using that language of the warehouse, the metal panels, but in a way that’s appropriate at the scale,” Dobre said.

Amy Lessen, research associate professor at Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, said the center will allow Tulane to become involved on the riverfront in a new way.

“We feel that Tulane as a great institution of learning has a lot to offer in terms of being a presence on the riverfront, both in terms of research, engagement with the community and economic development within the city,” Lessen said. “So, the TRCC is definitely going to be a way that Tulane can get involved on the riverfront in that site in all 3 of those ways.”

The front of the building will have a wall that has a strata of different colors that mimic the colors of a core sample from the Mississippi River. This way, the outside of the building will reflect what is going on inside.

On the inside, the building will serve a research center as well as a community center. It will “serve as a visitor’s center to educate and inform the general public,” according to the project website. Dobre said the building will have a forum space designed for community education.

There have been a number of setbacks to construction. Recently the construction team discovered that the river was undermining the slab where the building was. In that state, it would have taken two or three years for the river to overtake the building. Because of this, they had to peel back the wharf and put sheet piling in. Despite these setbacks, major structural work has already been done on the building.

“We’re pretty much rolling now,” Bob Leary, the project manager for the coastal center, said. Leary said he is confident the building will be complete in June or July.

The construction is primarily funded federally through the Economic Development Association. Additional funding came from the Delta Regional Authority and Tulane. The building will be LEED certified. According to Dobre, all new Tulane buildings aim to be at least LEED Silver.

Additional Reporting by Kate Clark, staff reporter.