LAFAYETTE — The city-parish administration is putting out feelers for a complex deal that would bring a new police substation to the troubled Four Corners area and transform the block where the old federal courthouse sits downtown into a mixed-use development of commercial and residential space.
City-Parish President Joey Durel has asked for a vote Tuesday on whether councilmen generally support the rough outlines of the proposal, which would have to come back to the council several times for approval of expenditures, property transfers and agreements with other agencies.
The proposal would address two issues that have been talked about off and on in recent years: revitalizing the Four Corners area at the intersection University and Cameron Street and finding a viable use for the downtown block where the old federal courthouse has sat largely vacant for more than a decade.
The deal would rely heavily on cooperation from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, a self-supporting public agency that makes money through investments and financing and uses the proceeds to support public projects.
The authority has played a role in several downtown developments, including the Rosa Parks Transportation Center, Uptown Lofts and the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The idea, given in broad strokes by Durel in a resolution sent to the council, is for the LPTFA to help pay for a new police substation at Four Corners.
In return, city-parish government would give LPTFA the old federal courthouse and two adjacent city-owned buildings, with the understanding that the site would be redeveloped.
LPTFA Chairman John Arceneaux said there have been general discussions with the Durel administration about the proposal, but no commitments have been made on either side.
The redevelopment of the old federal courthouse site at Jefferson and Main streets has been a top priority for the Downtown Development Authority.
“This is our first real opportunity at creating high-quality residential downtown,” said DDA CEO Nathan Norris.
He said the hope is to fill most of the block with a mix of residential and commercial space.
The development might require demolishing the old federal courthouse and two adjacent city-owned buildings that also sit empty — the old police station and the old Acadiana Open Channel building — but the main four-story portion of the old courthouse could possibly be re-purposed, Norris said.
Norris envisions wide sidewalks, outdoor dining and a chance to spur further development along Main Street, with the long-term goal of making it just as lively as Jefferson Street.
“We are not going to be considered a real city until we get more than one street downtown,” he said.
Prior proposals for redevelopment of the old federal courthouse site have gone nowhere.
City-parish government bought the building from the federal government in 2001 for $800,000 after the completion of the new federal courthouse a few blocks away on Lafayette Street.
The old courthouse has sat largely empty since then, with the exception of a few city-parish employees who worked out of a small office on the first floor until 2009.
Early plans to renovate the old courthouse for office space fell through because of the expense.
Another plan four years ago to demolish the building to clear the way for private development fell through after some City-Parish Council members questioned whether the site could be the home for a new parish courthouse.
No definite site for the Four Corners police precinct has been identified, but Durel and City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin, who represents the area, said one option is to buy the tattered Lesspay Motel at the intersection of University Avenue and Cameron Street, demolish the business and put the new precinct building in its place.
“The Lesspay Motel has just been an eyesore for many, many years,” Shelvin said.
Shelvin said he supports clearing away the motel to make way for the new precinct building but just learned on Wednesday of the second part of the deal involving the old federal courthouse and wants to reserve comment until he has more information.