Downtown Youngsville will soon have a new municipal complex that's better suited to meeting the needs of the growing suburb's police administration, city employees and elected officials.
The campuslike complex will house the Youngsville Police Department, City Hall and Council Chambers near the intersection of Iberia and Lafayette streets. City leaders hope the downtown investment will spur smart growth in the city's core — eventually linking the new Royville mixed-use development to the established Sugar Mill Pond development through sidewalks and bike paths.
"The public has said they want us to invest in the heart of the city," said Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter. "And the timing is great because of the Royville development. The potential for development in this area is just going to be huge."
Construction is expected to begin on the $5.5 million municipal complex this spring. The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2021.
Design plans are nearing completion as preparations begin at the construction site. A house was recently moved, utility lines are being relocated and a historic oak tree that will be a focal point of the complex is being preserved.
"We wanted to preserve the property as much as we could," Ritter said. "And that's why the oak tree has become such a prominent feature in the complex and why the house was moved and not torn down."
Those who work in the existing municipal buildings are anxiously awaiting the project's completion.
The Youngsville Police Department is currently housed in a 4,450-square-foot building on Fourth Street that's hidden in the back of a neighborhood. The 15-year-old building has become so cramped for the growing Police Department that storage closets have become makeshift offices, and two detectives work out of a portable trailer on the property. It's almost impossible for officers to leave the building at certain times of the day because of the nearby schools.
"There's three schools in a three-block area," said Youngsville Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux. "It completely locks you in that area because so many people take their kids to and from school."
The new Police Department will be housed in a 6,090-square-foot building just five blocks from the existing location. It will have a conference room that can double as an emergency operations center during times of need. It will have three interview rooms instead of one, including a soft interview room for victims of sexual assault victims. It will be more visible and accessible.
"And it'll just have more room than anything," Boudreaux said. "People are sharing offices and are using small spaces that were never intended to be offices. It's time to upgrade."
The Youngsville City Hall and Council Chambers are currently housed in a 3,800-square-foot building on Iberia Street near the site of the new municipal complex.
When the existing City Hall opened in 1994, Youngsville had a population of less than 3,000 people. Now, 25 years later, the city has more than 14,000 residents. The building's carport was recently enclosed to make additional office space for the growing administration.
"We've outgrown our current space," Ritter said. "We've simply outgrown it."
City Hall will soon be housed in a 7,960-square-foot building, with the Council Chambers housed in an adjacent 2,420-square-foot building. City Hall will be accessible to the Council Chambers through hallways between the buildings.
The Police Department will be situated on the other side of the Council Chambers, with easy access between the buildings through covered walkways.
"From the street, it appears they're all connected," said Marc Berard, the project's architect. "It creates that campus feel."
Youngsville's municipal complex has been in the works for more than a decade.
It started with a previous City Council voting down an offer from Sugar Mill Pond to build a new City Hall in the development. Elected officials feared the development, which was still new at the time, might not be inclusive of all of the city's residents.
The City Council would eventually include funds to design the municipal complex in the 2015 and 2016 budgets, but city leaders would table the project because of declining sales tax revenues and the August 2016 flood.
Since then, Youngsville has acquired 1.1 acres of land near the existing City Hall and has secured enough funds to include the Police Department in the project.
"It has paid off to wait," Ritter said. "Now, we're really able to build something for the future of our city."