PORT ALLEN — An architect hired to evaluate the former City Hall complex on Jefferson Avenue says it’s falling apart, could pose a threat to the public and needs to be demolished.
Justin Altazan, president of Baton Rouge-based Third Coast Architecture, offered his assessment in a final report issued to the City Council at its regular meeting Wednesday.
The council hired Altazan earlier this year to inspect the building to see if it could be restored. He was hired during the term of former interim Mayor Lynn Robertson.
Altazan said that in addition to numerous structural issues, there are five types of mold — including black mold — in the building as well as areas containing asbestos that could pose a health hazard.
“While the overall air situation is not toxic yet, it is going to get there with all the mold growth in the building,” Altazan said. “The longer it continues to sit, the worse it will get.”
Altazan said the asbestos has to be remediated by a state-licensed service and could cost about $15,000.
“It’s a costly procedure, between about $4 and $5 per square foot,” he said, adding that air-quality monitoring would be required at an additional cost.
The council moved from the building in 2007 to its current complex along Court Street, near the Mississippi River levee.
Over the years, Altazan said, multiple additions to the facility have led to uneven flooring. Also, roof shingle damage sustained during Hurricane Gustav has yet to be repaired, which has led to multiple leaks and water damage inside the structure.
When Mayor Richard Lee asked about selective demolition of the building, Altazan said the process could be more costly than total demolition. He said any duct work or porous materials that mold could live inside would need to be removed.
“It’s more expensive because the contractors need to take more time to be more selective in removing those items without damaging other items,” he said.
Altazan gave in his report what he called a “best guess” total estimate of $551,500 to renovate the building, using a “very liberal cost” of $65 per square foot.
Asked by Councilman R.J. Loupe Jr. if fixing the building’s roof would solve the leak issues, Altazan said the entire roof structure would need to be replaced. He estimated the cost of doing so to be about $132,000, at a rate of $15 per square foot, not including new framing costs.
Altazan said that, ultimately, the cost to renovate the historic building outweighs the benefit of saving it.
“It would be cheaper to knock the whole building down rather than renovate,” he said, adding that the cost could be as low as $1 to $2 per square foot.
The city also is continuing to pay insurance on the vacant building, City Chief Administrative Officer Adrian Genre told the council.
“I drive by there every day,” said Loupe, who was on the council when it met in an 8-by-10-foot room in the building. “I’ve shed a few tears, but we can’t let this mold continue.”