St. John’s historic restorations ready to roll

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 28, 2009



LAPLACE – The architectural consulting firm behind St. John Parish’s comprehensive plan to restore historically significant locations in the parish said Tuesday developers are ready to reveal the first phase of the plan to the public.

Mark DeJarnette, a landscape architect for Greg Cantrell Inc., the group contracted to draw up the plans, told the St. John Council the firm plans to reveal the full plans for the Garyville and west bank portions of the project during a pair of town hall meetings early next month. Dejarnette made the announcement during a brief preview presentation to the council at their regular meeting in LaPlace.

The Garyville unveiling has been set for Monday, Dec. 7, at the Adult Education Center, located inside the old Garyville Elementary School, 152 Anthony F. Monica St. The west bank meeting will be held Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the St. John Parish Courthouse on River Road in Edgard. Both will start at 6 p.m.

“The meetings will include interactive displays that will feature detailed maps, cost estimates, funding sources and design specifics,” said St. John Acting Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe.

DeJarnette said the Garyville project will revolve around a renovation and revitalization of the downtown area surrounding the Timbermill Museum. He said that portion of Garyville is the most historically intact area of the parish and called it an ideal starting point for the project.

“The town is a rare example of how early industry in Louisiana was laid out,” DeJarnette said. “It is something that we have the ability to salvage.”

Boe said the parish has acquired a series of state grants of more than $200,000 to help fund renovations at the Timbermill Museum. He said administrators are continuing to seek out further funding for other elements.

Additional plans for the Garyville portion include a pedestrian loop around the millpond and sawmill ruins complete with signage that details the historic elements.

On the other side of the river, DeJarnette said the plan will focus on linking the sparsely populated communities that dot the west bank of the parish.

“Lucy, Wallace and Edgard are very distinct communities that are mostly separated from one another in addition to being separated from the east bank of the parish,” DeJarnette said. “Many of the historic elements have been laid to waste, but there is still much that can be preserved.”

DeJarnette said much of the funding for projects like this can be found through federal grants specifically set up for historically designated areas. He said much of that grant money is underused because most communities just don’t know it is there. There are also tax credits that the parish can take advantage of if the area falls in line with the Main Street America program.

“There are many aspects of Garyville and the west bank that would fall into the Main Street program,” DeJarnette said.

In addition to the town hall meetings, Boe said complete plans for the historic redevelopment will be on display at every library in the parish. He said the parish will pay $106,500 for the complete two-phase plan that will eventually include parts of Reserve and LaPlace.