DENHAM SPRINGS – It took almost 2½ years after the Great Flood of 2016, but Denham Springs can finally put into action its plan for City Hall.
Mayor Gerard Landry announced Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the demolition of City Hall and purchase of the temporary site the city has used since the flood. The announcement came at the monthly meeting of the Livingston Parish Republican Women at Big Mike’s, where the mayor served as guest speaker.
“FEMA, this morning, we got the final email to replace City Hall. That is the route we chose,” Landry said.
What has been referred to as the “Wet City Hall” will be demolished along with the fire chief’s headquarters and two more buildings in the Street Department, the mayor said.
The site on Lamm Street will be made into green space for the public, with a pavilion of 8,000 to 10,000 square feet, “like Train Station Park,” Landry said.
The $4 million earmarked by FEMA will also complete the purchase of the Capital One bank building in the Antique District that has been the temporary City Hall, he said.
“It will make the city the largest property owner downtown,” Landry said, “and will lead in the revitalization of the city.”
But resolving the issue of City Hall won’t bring an end to the response to the August 2016 flood.
“The recovery process has been very long and will go on for years,” Landry told the Republican group. In New Orleans, 12 years after Hurricane Katrina, “FEMA is still there,” he said.
“(State Rep.) Rogers Pope understands dealing with Restore (Louisiana) and government and getting the pieces to come together,” he added. “If the Duplication of Benefits (issue) is resolved, it should help a lot.”
Landry also pointed out that progress is being made on one of the projects listed by Denham Strong, the volunteer group directing recovery efforts.
The city recently approved $9,000, its matching portion, to fund a $50,000 master plan for a bike and pedestrian path for Denham Springs.
The engineer will come out and hold public meetings to find out what city residents who like to bike and walk would want -- “what do you want to see,” Landry said.
“Then they will go out and find the funding to make it happen.”
Spring Park, the “flagship park of the city,” has a LSU geologist conducting surveys to find the physical location of the original hotels and three underground springs, he said.
“We will figure out how to make a park that the citizens can be proud of,” he said.
“Those are the kinds of things you dream about. Realistically, who knows? If you don’t plant the seed, you never know,” Landry said.
“We have to think outside of the box,” develop plans and get the public to come aboard, he said. “We’re a special community, I’m not from here, I’ve only lived here 35, 40 years here. My wife reminds me of that,” Landry quipped.
But after the Great Flood of 2016, “Everybody came together and helped each other. We want to be bigger and better, but we don’t want to lose our charm.”