LAFAYETTE — A historic building in the path of a downtown interchange for the planned Interstate 49 Connector will not be demolished — at least for now.
The state Department of Transportation and Development has canceled a contract to tear the building down, DOTD spokeswoman Deidra Druilhet confirmed this week.
DOTD had been moving forward with plans to demolish the Coburn’s building, but changed course after state historic preservation officials recommended last month that the building be put on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Because of this new development, DOTD has canceled its contract to have the building demolished. Based on these findings, DOTD will conduct a reassessment of the building,” Druilhet said.
The building, believed to have been built either in the late 1800s or early 1900s, is one of the oldest structures in downtown.
It sits on the block bounded by Third, Grant, Second and Cypress streets and served for decades as the home for Merchants’ Grocer Co., a wholesaler that was once a major regional business.
It last served as home for Coburn Supply Co. — a plumbing, heating and air conditioning business.
Historic preservation officials with the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism toured the building last month after some community members raised questions about the demolition of the historic structure.
A letter sent by the historic preservation staff to DOTD and federal transportation officials after the site visit asked for a reassessment of the demolition plans considering the “significant role” the historic building played in Lafayette’s early economy.
“I am excited that hard work, community support and logic has won the day,” said Robert Guercio, who has been spearheading efforts to save the building and hopes to see it redeveloped.
Guercio said the next major step is to pull together the extensive historical research needed to make the case that the building should be on the National Register.
The decision of that designation would be made by the National Park Service.
Even with DOTD’s cancellation of the demolition contract, the building still might be torn down at some point to make way for the interchange.
But the cancellation sets the stage for a reconsideration of whether the design of the I-49 interchange in that area could be tweaked to allow the building to remain in place.
Guidelines for federal road projects, such as interstates, call for a consideration of how projects impact historic structures.
An initial historic building study done years ago as part of the I-49 planning process had determined that the Coburn’s building was not eligible for the National Register, but Culture, Recreation and Tourism officials have said the older study was not a thorough review of historical structures and that the new information learned about Coburn’s warrants a careful look.
Opponents of tearing down the building have said there seems to be no need to rush the demolition because I-49 through Lafayette is not expected to be built any time in the near future.
The project is estimated at more than $700 million, and no significant funding for construction has been secured.