PORT ALLEN — The city's issuance of a demolition permit for a building that has stood downtown for nearly 90 years is being questioned by some council members who view it as a cornerstone of any hopes to revitalize Port Allen's historic business district.
Councilman Garry Hubble's hoping city officials can dissuade the property owner from tearing the building down and instead find a way to save it.
But Port Allen's Chief Administrative Officer Adrian Genre say their options are limited.
"The state used to issue tax credits for historic buildings but that's not possible anymore with all the ongoing issues with the state budget," Genre said. "And state law forbids us to spend money on private property. So there's very little, if anything, we can do."
The two-story building Hubble wants to see saved from the wrecking ball is located at 110 N. Jefferson Ave., a portion of the bricked structure that stretches nearly a block down Court Street, where it intersects with Jefferson Avenue.
Erected in 1929, it's more commonly known as the D'Agostino building and is named after the family that originally ran a hotel upstairs and a restaurant on the first floor.
Throughout the years the building has been home to various short-lived commercial businesses, including a clothing store and local bakery. But it's stayed mostly vacant for the past 20 years, Genre said.
The now boarded structure has been in a steady decline due to massive roof leaks.
Hubble concedes that restoring the structure would be an ambitious and costly effort, but maintains that losing it would cost the city a lot more.
"We want to see what we can do to preserve it because once it's gone we can't get it back," he said. "It's one of the only original buildings we still have downtown. We need to keep it and make it historic."
The possible demolition of the building was a topic of much discussion at the City Council's committee meetings last week.
Councilman Hugh "Hootie" Riviere, like Hubble, bemoaned the possible loss of the historic structure. He said he'd been approached by a few developers over the years who expressed an interest in refurbishing the building.
"It just adds to the character of our little downtown area," he said. "It would be a shame for that building to just go away."
The building's current owner, Mona Budden, was in attendance when the council discussed the item last week.
She told city leaders she was willing to listen to any options they had but in the meantime would still be making the necessary preparations she has to in order to tear down the structure.
"But I won't do anything sudden without keeping you informed," Budden told the council.
She declined an interview request to discuss the issue further with The Advocate.
As news of the demolition permit spread through the community, Genre said, he's gotten several phone calls from folks panicked the building will be reduced to rubble any day now.
Genre understands the nostalgia driving much of the opposition to the building being torn down but said he also sees potential for something newer and better to replace it.
"That spot is primed for some sort of mixed-use development," he said.