Hubbard plan focuses on parish historic districts

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Various locations in St. John Parish that hold historical significance are about to receive a much-needed facelift in an effort to bring them back their former glory.

The St. John Council recently approved a parish contract with a local consultant that calls for a redevelopment initiative and beautification plan for several key areas parish wide, including spots in Reserve, Garyville and Edgard that have long been neglected. The agreement follows through on a campaign promise made by Parish President Bill Hubbard.

“This is just something that will enhance the historical parts of our parish,” said Hubbard. “People have been talking about projects like this for years, and I felt it was time to quit talking and take action to preserve these locations while we still can.”

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the administration began working on the proposal in May of 2008 by defining which areas should be included in the initiative. The areas narrowed down for work include the Garyville Timber Mill District, an area of River Road in Reserve from Central Avenue to West 10th St., a mile span of River Road in Edgard surrounding the Courthouse and a stretch of West 5th Street in LaPlace.

“These areas had never been designated as historic districts, and they really should have been,” said Boe. “There are state and federal funds set aside that municipalities never utilize that can go toward projects like this. There are also tax credits we can take advantage of in the ‘Main Street America program.’”

Boe said the parish commissioned Greg Cantrell Inc. of Kenner to design a blue print and checklist for what needs to be done in the areas pinpointed for the project. Cantrell was the man responsible for the redevelopment of Kenner’s Rivertown historic area, and also helped develop landscaping around Kenner’s City Hall and Police Department.

“I think anyone who has seen that part of Kenner knows that his work speaks for itself,” said Boe. “This is a real positive for St. John.”

The project will be done in two phases, which will span roughly a year. The first phase, slated for completion by the spring of 2009, will include River Road in Reserve, as well as the heart of Garyville.

“The administration felt that Garyville was the most historically intact area, and, therefore, the most logical starting point,” said Boe. “The revitalization will include plans to finally fully renovate the Garyville Timber Mill Museum, which recently received $200,000 from the state to repair the air conditioning system in the hopes of reopening it to visitors. We are working with the River Parishes Tourism Commission in an effort to increase tourist traffic in these areas.”

Also part of the first phase is the site analysis and redevelopment plans for the area of River Road in Reserve between Central Avenue and West 10th Street. It will also include a component that will allow the parish to beautify major entrances to commercial corridors such as Airline Highway, River Road and U.S. 51 near the interstate. Boe said a meeting is planned this week to get moving on the first phase.

Boe said phase two, which will start in spring of 2009 and wrap up by the end of next year, will include the plans for West 5th Street in LaPlace and River Road in Edgard near the courthouse, along with another commercial corridor refurbishing. It will also include a final report with recommendations for a long-term strategy to help manage and preserve the cultural and economic resources these locations hold for the parish.

“This is something that is long overdue, and it is a big positive for areas like Garyville and Reserve,” said Division B Councilman-at-Large Steve Lee. “People from out of state love to come out to these historical locations, and anything you can put on the map to attract these folks in important. This will also be a great way to spruce up some areas of the parish that need attention.”