First step in plan to redevelop block of unused properties
L AFAYETTE — Crews demolished a hulking eyesore of a warehouse on Garfield Street as the first step in a plan to redevelop a series of long-vacant buildings in the block between Garfield and Cypress streets.
Crews began demolishing The Daily Advertiser’s old printing facility on Garfield Street last month. All that remained on Friday were a few piles of broken bricks and concrete.
“It’s going to free up some land for future development,” said Mark Van Eaton, a real estate agent at Beau Box who is working with property owner JD Properties to redevelop the block. “It will create some green space and additional parking. It’s a very unique space, directly across from Parc International.”
He described the building that housed the old printing press as “functionally obsolete” and said the space could be better used without it.
There have been discussions of using the site of the old press facility for much-need parking in the area, he said, but there are no definite plans at this time.
Van Eaton also said he is now marketing four properties on the block — two adjacent to the demolished press facility on Garfield Street, one on Cypress Street and the old Advertiser offices on Jefferson Street — and has already received a few prospective tenants.
Frank Miller, property manager for JD Properties, said the company plans to gut the inside of the former Advertiser office that faces Jefferson Street, but he wasn’t sure what renovations are in store for the other three buildings.
“The only sure plans are the demolition of the press facility and gutting of the Advertiser building,” he said. “We will gut it out, so people can see the character of the building and then put their vision into this empty space.”
The Advertiser moved its printing operation from Garfield Street to Bertrand Drive in 1999, and the newsroom and business offices moved from Jefferson Street to the Bertrand location in 2005.
The old Jefferson Street office has remained vacant since the newspaper’s move to Bertrand and is one of the larger vacant buildings downtown.
The Advertiser’s corporate owner, Gannett, sold the Jefferson and Garfield sites to JD Properties in 2007.
Van Eaton said the original intent of the owners was to use the property to create a mixed-use development with commercial and residential offerings, but those plans were stalled by the mortgage crisis in 2008.
D own the street, a major renovation has just begun at 520 Jefferson St.
In the space that used to be the Piehole Pizzeria and Tap, developers plan to revive Poets Restaurant and Bar, a popular hangout that closed several years ago, Van Eaton said.
He said the owner is redoing the slab and renovating the front and back of the building to create outdoor dining space.
Van Eaton said he expects the restaurant to be open prior to Festival International.
James Hinson, a financial consultant who worked at Poets as a cook when he was younger, recalled that it was a “hoppin’ place.”
“It was a great place at the time,” said Hinson. “It was intended to be a restaurant but basically became a bar because people just packed it every night.”
Downtown Development Authority CEO Nathan Norris said he is excited about the work and the owners’ plans and he hopes to see some residential housing spring up in the area, as well as small retail and office spaces.
“Housing is our biggest problem,” said Norris. “Downtown would be much healthier if we had people living here 24/7 instead of just coming here to work or to party. Our office is busy trying to get supply and demand back in order.”