Central sees potential economic, cultural benefits from new city hall

Central sees potential economic, cultural benefits from new city hall
Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Friday, September 6, 2013 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Friday, September 6, 2013 - 4:04am

Nearly a decade after Central became a city, it is finally ready to build a city hall.

The city's Chief Administrative Officer, David Barrow, issued a request for information (RFI) Thursday for anyone looking to sell or donate a plot of land for construction of a city hall complex.

Mayor Mac Watts believes having a classic city hall would add greatly to Central's image.

"It kind of brands Central," he said. "Right now, you come into Central and you see the entrance signs on the major thoroughfares, but once you get into Central, you don't know if you're in Central or out of Central, really. Unless you go back and see the signs saying, 'thanks for visiting Central.'" 

The current city hall gives no such sense of identity. It is tucked into a strip mall, wedged between a dance studio and a martial arts studio. Watts claims that a new facility would improve the city's economy.

"I try to bring businesspeople into city hall here, and it's not real impressive, to come into a little strip center," he noted. It would also allow Central to capture more of the money that will come through town, thanks to recent construction projects.

"Once the Thruway is through," he added, "and if Hooper Rd. is four-laned all the way out, people coming from the east, going to the airport, will cut through Central, which leads to hotels and those types of things for economic development."

Central wants at least 15 acres, somewhere near the heart of the city.

"Well, there's a lot of land in Central! You know, we have lots of parcels, but the right spot," is crucial, Watts said.

Central has about $8 million of unrestricted funds to spend, plus another $2 million in capital outlay from the state legislature. If the cost to purchase property and build infrastructure runs higher than that, Central could take out bonds.

"But I think we may have enough money just to buy the land and build a city hall," he stated.

Aside from uniting city government and services, which are currently in two different spots, Watts wants enough space to build a park. He envisions the new City Hall being a main gathering spot, much like Baton Rouge has created with North Boulevard Town Square and Galvez Plaza.

"Maybe an amphitheater, [so] that we can have some weekend activities," he mentioned. "You know, we have a national day of prayer now, and we have it out on the corner of Hooper and Sullivan, and you have to kind of say things in between Jake brakes and so forth. And if we have some walking trails there, it gives us a place to go."

Barrow's RFI seeks a minimum of 15 acres, but if the city finds a parcel with, "more acreage, then we could zone it commercial and have some nice commercial development around it," Watts said.

Watts has formed a search committee to identify the best available locations for a city hall. He hopes to choose a location by the end of October and then begin negotiating to purchase the land.

But first, there will be a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on September 19 at New Hope Ministries, 17070 Greenwell Springs Rd.

To read Central's RFI, click on the linked attachment below.

Central City Hall RFI.pdf91.96 KB

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