Offices will give way to grassy plots and parking garages in downtown Baton Rouge, if everything goes according to plan.
The city is demolishing several government buildings in the area around the River Center, City Hall and the 19th Judicial District Court.
Crews have already begun tearing down the old municipal building where the Sheriff's Office and Department of Public Works once resided. Demolition is expected to last into September.
Afterward, crews will go across the street to the public defender's office, which will be the next to fall.
Eventually, the city would like to turn the old municipal lot into a green space, said Buildings and Grounds Director Carey "Bubba" Cashio. There's also a plan to take some of the land and make a better sallyport for the courthouse, since deputies currently have to back in their inmate transport vehicles, which clogs traffic around St. Louis street.
The public defender's office, meanwhile, is already located next door to the River Center parking garage and that building could be used for an expansion, though the city and its next mayor will need to find funding if the project is to be pursued, Cashio continued.
A third, $3.9 million endeavor will allow performers to face the River Center rather than Town Square, giving more room for audiences. The Downtown Development District plans to pave over the entrance to the underground parking garage and replace the brick plaza behind City Hall with grass and trees, explained Director Davis Rhorer.
Amidst all the construction and demolition, the public defender will permanently move into City Hall in the seventh-floor offices temporarily being used by the Metro Council, which is awaiting the renovation of its council chambers on the third floor. Since the council began holding meetings in a cramped courtroom in City Hall, attendees have frequently had to watch meetings on monitors outside by the elevator bank.
Cashio hopes the council can move out of its crowded temporary site and back to its regular home in time for the Sept. 28 meeting. Crews are still hooking up the audio-visual equipment, he said.
The timelines for other projects isn't so clear.
Once the rubble from the old municipal building is hauled away, the lot will be used to stage equipment for the demolition of the nearby River Center Library and the construction of a new branch in its place.
After years of often heated debate over whether to renovate the downtown River Center Branch…
The $19 million library project is expected to last until 2018, so any improvements to the municipal lot are still a few years away, and Cashio said the city doesn't have any particular designs in mind for the land, just that it is currently envisioned as a green space with some room for the courthouse sally port.
And though demolition crews will start leveling the public defender's building next month, it's unclear when the property will be turned into anything productive.
Cashio said the old building has to be destroyed because the cost to maintain the offices has become "extravagant." While it's currently being considered as an extension of the garage next door, the next mayor-president and Metro Council will have to decide if they want to continue in that direction, where to prioritize the site and how to pay for their plan, he said.
Rhorer expects to return to the Metro Council with plans for the City Hall Plaza before the end of September -- possibly in the first meeting in their new digs. The Downtown Development District is finalizing its compliance with the Disabilities Act but Rhorer believes the project can be send out for bid soon.