Aug 11, 2014 5:40 AM by AP
State officials say a nearly 130-year-old brick building in the right of way of the planned Interstate 49 connector will be demolished despite appeals from the Downtown Development Authority and others to spare the structure.
The dispute involves vacant buildings in the block bounded by Third, Grant, Second and Cypress streets near the downtown railroad tracks.
Development authority CEO Nathan Norris told The Advocate his primary concern is the oldest building, a two-story brick structure built in 1885.
"Why demolish one of the few historic buildings (in downtown) capable of being used in a productive way?" he said.
The state Department of Transportation and Development bought most of the block as right of way for a future I-49 downtown interchange and plans to demolish the buildings on the block.
Norris has been pushing to delay the demolition, pending efforts to find some use for the old building.
He said he sees no immediate need to raze the building because the I-49 Connector is still in the planning stages and there are few prospects for securing the up to $1 billion needed for the project.
"Right now, we don't have any final design, and we don't have any funding in place," Norris said.
Norris said he had been talking with transportation officials about alternatives since March. He said he was notified recently by Transportation Secretary Sherri LeBas that the state plans to go ahead with demolition of the buildings though no timetable has been set.
Department spokesman Rodney Mallett said the property eventually must be cleared for the I-49 project and the department sees no reason to delay.
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