EBR to borrow site funding

The city-parish plans to take out a loan for up to $11 million to purchase the former Woman’s Hospital campus for use as a shared headquarters by the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, officials said Tuesday.

The Mayor’s Office announced last year its intention to purchase the 24-acre hospital site at Goodwood Boulevard and Airline Highway for use by law enforcement. The hospital campus will cost the city-parish $10 million, but the city-parish has only recently revealed how it plans to finance the building.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer to Mayor-President Kip Holden, said the city-parish will apply to the state Bond Commission for permission to take out a loan from a local bank. The Metro Council on Wednesday will vote on approving the application.

Daniel said a bank has not been selected yet, but after “shopping the loan around” he said he expects the city-parish to receive an interest rate of around 3 percent. The loan will be repaid out of general fund dollars over the next 15 years, Daniel said.

The city-parish has not yet closed a deal with Woman’s Hospital officials to purchase the campus, and is still evaluating the property with a team of architects, builders and engineers to ensure the building is fit for the need, Daniel said. But he said he’s confident the deal will go forward.

“Everything looks very positive,” he said. “They’ve been out of it for less than a year, and they were in it for many, many years. I don’t expect to find anything that would impact the deal such that we wouldn’t want to close.”

In September, Woman’s Hospital moved to its new campus on Airline Highway and Pecue Lane.

The Metro Council on Jan. 9 approved a deal allowing the city-parish to begin a 150-day period of due diligence to evaluate the campus, which will end June 8.

Daniel said the buildings on the campus are mostly “move-in ready.” He said he anticipates police officers could move out of their Mayflower Street location and into the new building soon after the deal is finished.

He said the Sheriff’s Office move would come shortly after the Baton Rouge Police Department moves to the site.

Initially, Holden said it could cost another $10 million to renovate the hospital campus to accommodate the law enforcement needs.

Daniel said many renovation goals will be more long term, and the city-parish will explore creative ways to finance that construction. For example, he said, a portion of the hospital campus could be sold to a commercial venture and money from that sale could be used to do remodeling.

“There are so many possibilities,” Daniel said.

After the purchase is finalized, Daniel said the city-parish will contract with a master planner to develop long-term plans, which will include building a proper training facility.

Initially, law enforcement will move into the former Physician’s Tower, adjacent to the parking garage, according to a memo sent to the Metro Council. The original hospital tower is being planned for demolition, and the two-story hospital addition would be set aside for future master planning, the memo said.

The city-parish has long been looking for an alternative police headquarters.

The current headquarters on Mayflower Street was originally a school built in the 1930s.

The Police Department moved into the building in 1989 for what was supposed to be a temporary stay.

The Sheriff’s Office is currently headquartered on St. Louis Street next to the 19th Judicial court house. Before the Woman’s Hospital deal was announced the city-parish signed off on a new lease agreement with the Baton Rouge Metro Airport to give the Sheriff’s Office a larger office space near the airport. But the move has been postponed until early May to address maintenance issues, said Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks.

Daniel said the lease agreement with the airport can be ended when the Sheriff’s Office is set to move into the hospital site.

In his most-recent infrastructure tax plan — which was rejected in 2011 by the Metro Council — Holden proposed spending $102 million to build a new facility for a shared headquarters for the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office.