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Robideaux Negotiates $1.4 mil Sale of Old Federal Courthouse

Sep 26, 2018 09:47AM ● By Staff Writer

The old Federal Courthouse building in downtown Lafayette will soon be repurposed to enrich the atmosphere of downtown Lafayette. The two-acre property formerly served as the city’s Federal Courthouse. Mayor-president Joel Robideaux negotiated conditions of the sale of the discarded government facility for an estimated $1.4 million based on an appraisal done in July.

The project will be helmed by OFCH LLC, a collaboration between Place de Lafayette and Weinstein Nelson Development. The development team was selected by Robideaux from a handful of contenders. Final approval for the refurbishment by the City-Parish Council is currently scheduled for Oct. 16.

The limited liability corporation that won the bid has committed to partitioning the structures fronting Lee Avenue into 68 residential units and 25,500 square feet of commercial space. Other amenities planned include common areas such as a club house and a pool.

The matter that is less clear is how much of the considerable sewer capacity upgrades and environmental safeguards will be funded by the city. While part of the sales agreement allows for the City of Lafayette to maintain a limited amount of control over the property, the city will also be responsible for reimbursing the developers for any sewer upgrades the latter begins when authorized.

Part of the reciprocal agreement between OFCH LLC and the City of Lafayette is devised so as to not drag out the pace of renovation. The Lafayette Utilities System will be performing $6.9 million in sewer improvements over the next few years. The larger volume of the sewers will allow for larger resident populations within downtown locales, enriching the culture and ambiance of Acadiana.

The cost of the sewers will partially be offset by an escrow account containing the proceeds of the courthouse sale. However, the sewer may not be the only large expense involved in bringing the new project to fruition. Cook Moor Davenport and Associates have mentioned in their current appraisal that there are potential sources of asbestos within the federal complex. Due to this, part of the agreement dictates that developers must only cover the first $75,000 worth of funding towards removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials. Likewise, the developers may terminate the agreement should the city fail to cover expenses eclipsing that dollar amount.

Another important city contribution will be to cover the excess cost of disconnecting the still-in-service former city hall building from the old police station. There is importance to differentiating between the courthouse and the adjoining buildings surrounding the campus. Like the asbestos situation, if the city does not provide their contribution, the developers have the option to walk. Developers are only compelled to pay the initial $15,000 towards the needed demolition.

The unique agreement has a sort of system of checks and balances, which prevent either the city or the developers from having too much authority. The final design must fit within parameters outlined by OFCH LLC. To prevent project stagnation, both parties have agreed to deadlines for completion by December 31, 2020, and breaking ground for construction by July 1, 2019. If those deadlines are missed, the responsible party will begin to stack up monthly financial penalties. Should construction begin later than planned, a $25,000 penalty per month will be assessed. Additionally, a $10,000 per month penalty will be levied should the project miss its completion date.

Despite significant contributions expected to match the initial investments of OFCH LLC, Mayor Robideaux does not expect the City of Lafayette’s financial pledge to exceed the proceeds of the property sale. As a result, the mutually beneficial endeavor is expected to provide jobs, new residences, and new community vibrancy to downtown festivals and events.