The preliminary ideas for the Commerce Building, at Third and Laurel in Baton Rouge, suggest using the black-and-white marble lobby as a jumping-off point for the design of its loft apartments, its architect says.
Steve Dumez, director of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, said Thursday the residential spaces in the building, built in the 1950s, will have “a kind of ‘Mad Men’ aesthetic.”
“The lobby looks like it hasn’t been touched since then. It perfectly represents the aesthetic, the construction of that time,” Dumez said.
The rooftop would be a little different, and its design might include a pool for residents and a terrace for a restaurant, he said. Dumez’s firm will complete the design by mid-2013 and construction should begin immediately.
There will be minimal changes to the building’s exterior, but all of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing will be replaced, Dumez said.
Dumez was one of the speakers at a meeting to get downtown stakeholders’ ideas for the building and to tell them a little more about the preliminary plans. Around 70 people attended the presentation, with around 10 making suggestions and/or asking questions.
Stephanie Jacque, who lives in midcity and works downtown, said she would love to see a grocery store in the building.
“If you want people to live downtown, they need to have a grocery store. They need to have a drugstore,” Jacque said.
Dumez said the Commerce Building’s owner, New Orleans developer T.J. Iarocci, is looking at a grocery store or supermarket as a possible tenant.
The preliminary plan calls for around 7,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, Dumez said. But the design can change depending on whether there is more demand for commercial space or parking.
Jacque said she didn’t think 7,000 square feet would be enough space for a grocery store.
Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer said he has had initial discussions with grocers, and they were fine with that amount of space.
There are no parking space requirements for a grocery store, Rhorer said. There are plenty of parking spaces downtown, particularly at night and on the weekends.
One attendee, who asked not to be named, suggested a restaurant that included a deli service for people who don’t cook. Dumez said his firm worked on a residential high-rise on Poydras Street in New Orleans that also has a restaurant tenant.
The restaurant has elevator access to all the floors so it can handle deliveries and room service, just like a hotel, Dumez said.
Downtown resident Ward Bond said Iarocci should consider using one floor of the building for an assisted living facility.
“I imagine you could find someone who would rent the shell from you, give you a check, and you wouldn’t have to worry about him,” Bond said.
Bond said he got the idea because he has a good friend who can no longer live on his own but misses downtown terribly.
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