LAFAYETTE — After having toured a turn-of-the-century building in downtown Lafayette facing demolition, state historic preservation officials could make a recommendation this week on whether it’s a candidate for the National Register of Historic Places.
The state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s historic preservation team toured the “Coburn’s building” on Monday.
The state Department of Transportation and Development is set to knock down the building to make way for a planned Interstate 49 interchange in downtown Lafayette, but the Downtown Development Authority and others have pushed to spare the historic structure, which sits on the block bounded by Third, Grant, Second and Cypress streets.
State historic preservation specialists could issue a recommendation as early as this week on whether the old building meets baseline eligibility requirements for the National Register, CRT spokesman Jacques Berry said in an e-mail.
The final decision on the historic designation would be in the hands of the National Park Service.
The building, believed to have been built either in the late 1800s or early 1900s, served for decades as the home for Merchants’ Grocer Company, a wholesaler once considered a significant regional business.
More recently, it was home to Coburn Supply Company, a plumbing, heating and air conditioning business.
It is thought to be among the oldest buildings in downtown Lafayette.
DOTD purchased the block where the building sits because it is in the path of an interchange for the planned I-49 Connector through Lafayette, but opponents of tearing the building down question why there is a rush to act, considering there is no secure funding for the road project — estimated at more the $700 million — and because the interchange design is still subject to change.
Berry has said CRT does not plan to try to block DOTD from demolishing the structure, but advocates for saving it hope if the Coburn’s building is deemed eligible for the National Register, DOTD might reconsider.
“It could be torn down any day now,” said Robert Guercio, who has been working to save the structure.
He said what’s needed now are residents with skills in historical research to make the case for getting the building on the National Register, a designation given not just because of age but also because of the significance of a building’s architectural style and the role it played in a community’s history.
“If people want to save this building, they are going to have to demonstrate why,” Guercio said.
DOTD officials say they plan to move forward with the demolition, though no firm time line has been set.
DOTD spokeswoman Deidra Druilhet said in an email that the Coburn’s building was already determined ineligible for a listing on the National Register during a study done years ago under federal guidelines that call on planners to consider the impact to historic properties when designing road projects.
The 2003 federal document that served as the formal stamp of approval for the current route of the planned interstate calls for state and federal highway officials to consider any new information about historic properties not initially considered, stating that a consultation “will be conducted … to develop an appropriate course of action” in the event of “a subsequent discovery or identification of additional historic properties.”
Druilhet said in an email that the renewed interest in the building has not changed the demolition plans and cited the earlier finding that the Coburn’s building was not eligible for a historic classification.
“At this time, DOTD has not initiated any consultation, as this building is not a subsequent discovery or an additional historic property,” she wrote.