Official says control of former insurance site secure

Rendering provided by the Downtown Development District -- An artist rendering shows the planned trailhead and gateway to the Mississippi River at River Road and Florida Street.
Rendering provided by the Downtown Development District -- An artist rendering shows the planned trailhead and gateway to the Mississippi River at River Road and Florida Street.

Plans are still in place for the Legislative Auditor’s Office to take control of the former Insurance Department site next to the State Capitol, a member of the Downtown Development District’s board said Tuesday.

Board member Derrell Cahoon told DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer and attendees of the monthly meeting that there is money in the state’s capital outlay budget to allow the Legislative Auditor’s Office to secure the site.

Cahoon, who kept an eye on bills related to downtown during the recently completed session, said the state officials believe it is important to keep the site under state control.

Rhorer said after the meeting that he continues to feel that whatever goes there must be compatible in design and scope with the nearby Spanish Town neighborhood. The Legislative Auditor’s Office isn’t so large that it can’t serve as a transition between the large scale of the capitol and the smaller scale of the historic neighborhood.

“That neighborhood has to be protected,” he said. “Keeping it in the state’s hands, you have a little more control over the proportion and scale.”

Spanish Town residents successfully opposed a large apartment building nearby in 2009 because it was out of step with the neighborhood and would create traffic problems.

In other business:

GATEWAY: Rhorer said the state has selected the $1.3 million low bid for the gateway to the Mississippi River Levee at Florida Street. Construction should begin in September after approval from the Metro Council next month.

“I don’t think people realize you’re finally going to have an appropriate entryway to the levee and the river,” he said.

Rhorer said the gateway is also important because it will link the Mississippi River levee bike trail with the proposed downtown greenway, which is a path system that will run from City Park to Memorial Stadium.

RICHOUX’S BUILDING: Chris Ferrari, an architect working on the redevelopment of the Richoux’s building, told the audience that a planned rooftop bar and restaurant will feature a large screen on the back side of the Coca-Cola sign that can show sporting events like LSU games.

The project, which will bring a Raising Cane’s and another tenant to the Third Street building, should start to see tenants opening in the first half of next year, Ferrari said.

MAIL DELIVERY: A DDD committee gathering input from residents in Spanish Town, Beauregard Town and the central business district will try to persuade the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail to the CBD on Saturdays, board Chairman Chris Nichols said. Nichols said delivery wasn’t always necessary because the CBD didn’t have many residents. This has begun to change and the service is needed.

COMMON AREA: Architect Brian Goad of Suzanne Turner Associates discussed plans to create a common area just north of the Louisiana Art and Science Museum. The area would feature concrete and green space in a swirl-like pattern where the museum’s train used to be.