PORT ALLEN — City officials have plans to return the Port Allen Depot — derided as an eyesore just a couple years ago — back to its intended purpose as a welcome center and museum as soon as Thanksgiving or Christmas.
“We hope to have another tree-lighting ceremony there,” said Rose Roché, the city’s community development director.
Roché first announced the administration’s repurposing plans for the depot, which sits along La. 1 between Avenues A and C, last week to a receptive City Council. Some members have complained for several years about the structure’s state of disrepair due to neglect and vandalism.
Last spring, the city spruced up the once-derelict building so that it could be used as the administrative office for the city’s inspector.
But city leaders feel the depot should be part of the parish’s tourism industry, especially given the amount of volunteer hours several residents put into refurbishing the more than 100-year-old train freight depot the structure prominently features.
“It was kind of disheartening because there are a number of us that put time and effort over it,” Councilman Garry Hubble said.
Hubble managed the facility, along with a group of volunteers, before he was elected to the council. He has previously said the depot’s downward decline began in 2005, as some city administration decisions about management of the facility chased volunteers away.
In its heyday, the depot not only served as a welcome center and museum, but it also was rented out for community events and served as the backdrop for a farmers market spearheaded by councilmen R.J. Loupe and Ray Helen Lawrence.
“We had many great volunteers over there; we had it manned consistently every week,” he said. “Rose is gonna have the full support of the council and the mayor. I don’t think anyone wants to see a structure we had high hopes for just sit there not being used.”
Roché says the facility is currently “not in bad shape” and should be OK to reopen as the welcome center after just a few coats of paint and general facade improvements.
The city hopes to curtail any future vandalism by activating surveillance cameras that are already installed on the property but not currently operational.
The administration hasn’t attached any cost estimates to the project. Roché is hoping to get a lot of the labor done through trade with other government entities.
“It may cost us some money, it may not,” she said. “We want it to be first class.”
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