The renovation of historic downtown Louisiana that many have yearned for is already underway, albeit in a quiet and slow manner.
For the past several years, new building owners have been rebuilding and repairing downtown buildings in hopes of luring tourists and locals to the once-thriving business district.
In the 300 block of Georgia Street, Doug and Lynn Dempsey have bought the old Haines Moss building and the vacant lot next door left from the May 2010 collapse of the Rainbow Flower Shop building.
“It’s going to be a high-end sports bar,” Mr. Dempsey said in a recent interview. “We plan on opening early next spring.
“Our goal is to bring the community back together again to bring downtown back around. We’re trying to revitalize downtown.”
For the past few weeks, the Dempseys have had Penrod Construction, of Louisiana, shoring up the outside wall that was left exposed by the building collapse.
“We’re pouring a 14-inch thick by two-foot wide support for a new cinder block wall,” Dempsey said. The wall will have large windows and doors leading out onto a 10 by 70 foot patio.
Across the street in the same block, building owner Tim Carter is continuing to make progress on the building he bought a few years ago. Carter has already installed the Robbyn’s Nest gift and clothing shop in one of the two retail spaces.
“The next project is where the arcade was (in the second retail space) for someone to rent or something to run ourselves. We’re not sure yet,” Carter said.
Carter also purchased the adjacent vacant lots left over from the demolition of the old Rexall and Conboy buildings. He shored up the wall of his building to stop leaks into the basement and is turning the lots into a small park.
“We put up a cinder block wall to help level the lot and put seed in,” Carter said. “The wall will have a brick facade and some wrought iron decoration and gate.
“We’re doing this as we go. Eventually, it will be a garden-type, sit down patio for the community.”
A work in
Down the street back toward the river at Georgia and Main Street, Daybreak Donuts and Diner owners Shaun Ross and Marianne Spears have been working on their building for the past three years.
After putting a new roof on, the couple began expanding the restaurant into the extra retail space next door.
“We shored up the outside wall and put in river-facing windows,” Ross said. “We’re hoping to add 40 seats and triple the capacity of the restaurant. We hope to have the seating by Colorfest,” which is Saturday and Sunday, Oct 19-20.
The new capacity will lead to two or three more employees, Ross said.
The couple also plans to put in an apartment for themselves on the second floor of the building.
“We’re not in a rush,” Ross said. “We’ve just been rebuilding it slowly,” as money and time allows.
Family friend Al Himmelsbach has been a large part of the project, providing financing and job supervision for the project.
“We’re friends and we’re doing this to help them,” Himmelsbach said at the construction site. “We’ll eat free for a year,” when it’s done.
At the corner of Georgia and Fourth Street, Jeannine Kelly, of Alton, Ill. hopes she can turn the old Strothers Jewelry Store into an artists studio, shop and living quarters.
Kelly recently purchased the building at auction and knew it would need a lot of work.
“It’s in bad shape, but it can be saved. The question is at what cost” said the attorney who has rehabilitated other buildings.
The building has passed a structural inspection but Kelly’s deal with the city won’t be finalized unless she can insure it, she said. If that happens, the renovations will begin, she added.