New Lafayette Parish Courthouse
Certainly, the move will be bittersweet for most Lafayette Parish residents. The current incarnation of the Parish Courthouse is universally beloved for its functionality and its bold architectural design – a design that embodies the classical ideal that justice is blind.You heard it hear first. That's right, the Promulgator Editorial Board has the scoop of the century for the Lafayette Parish legal community: The current Lafayette Parish Courthouse will be shuttered, and a new, state-of-the-art replacement will be constructed in the Village of River Ranch on the southside of Lafayette. As of press time, neither Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (“LCG”) nor Southern Lifestyle Development Company, L.L.C. (the developer of River Ranch) was prepared to divulge particular details regarding the new parish courthouse, but sources inform The Promulgator Editorial Board that a River Ranch-based attorney has agreed to provide most of the funding necessary for construction of the new facility. This anonymous philanthropist is rumored to have soured on the downtown courthouse, which is both outdated and fails to meet the aesthetic standards to which those who live and work in River Ranch have become accustomed. MOVING CO. facility. Additionally, as an inducement to relocate the courthouse to River Ranch, the City Club will offer complimentary memberships to courthouse officials and employees.
The current parish courthouse opened in 1964. At that time, the population of Lafayette Parish was 85,000. As of 2015, the United States Census Bureau estimated the population of Lafayette Parish to be 240,098. When it opened, the courthouse housed three judges. Today, it houses thirteen judges. Moreover, in 1964, there were no computers, fax machines, copy machines or even electric typewriters, yet the courthouse is still served in large part by its original wiring. Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret is on record as having expressed concerns about safety and security within the building. There are no holding cells for inmates, and up to fifty prisoners at a time are walked across the street from the parish jail and kept in an unlocked courtroom. Prisoners share elevators with the public, victims, witnesses, employees and judges.
As pictured on the cover of this edition of The Promulgator, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Friday, March 10 at De Gaulle Square in River Ranch. Local political leaders and members of the legal community gathered to celebrate this important moment in the history of Lafayette Parish. (Mr. Perret planned to attend the groundbreaking, but after waiting an hour for an elevator, called from the courthouse to express his regrets.) Although unconfirmed, sources tell The Promulgator Editorial Board that the new parish courthouse will probably be constructed behind the Burgersmith restaurant near the corner of Camellia Boulevard and Kaliste Saloom Road, and will incorporate the traditional architectural styles found throughout River Ranch. Individuals who have seen architectural renderings report that the building will be an eleven-story stucco and brick edifice, accented with plantation shutters. Courtrooms will feature slate floors and antique cypress beams. Rumors abound that instead of a canteen, the new courthouse will house a Romacelli Bistro, and The Lab Handcrafted Coffee and Comforts will open a second location within the lobby of the facility. Additionally, as an inducement to relocate the courthouse to River Ranch, the City Club will offer free memberships to courthouse officials and employees.
Over the past decade, the number of law offices in River Ranch has grown exponentially, and lawyers who work in River Ranch are ecstatic about the announcement that the courthouse will be relocating. One associate at at a large River Ranch law firm remarked: “It is quite inconvenient to travel downtown for a 10:00 hearing on a rule, only to have to speed back across the city to make a 12:30 lunch appointment at Rock-N-Sake.” A partner at another River Ranch firm shared the associate's enthusiasm about the news: “Now, when I have court, I often have to skip my morning workout at City Club. Once the courthouse relocates to River Ranch, I can work out, shower, get dressed, walk across the street, and I'm in court. Who knows, I might even have time to scarf down a kale and portobello mushroom omelette.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the news. A representative of Don's Seafood & Steakhouse lamented that sales of old fashioneds were likely to drop dramatically.
With the courthouse moving to River Ranch, questions surround the fate of related facilities downtown. Already outdated and overcrowded, the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center may also relocate. The Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office is reportedly considering all options, including a potential location near Parc Lafayette on Camellia Boulevard opposite Kaliste Saloom from River Ranch. One potential benefit of this location is that the Sheriff's Office could repurpose plans developed for Parc Tower, a luxury condominium tower that was shelved amid declining oil prices. Although plans for a luxury condo tower might seem like an odd starting place for designing a correctional facility, the Sheriff's Office has voiced support for the design, which it believes will be a “sanctuary city” for inmates, as opposed to the spartan conditions at the current facility, and will therefore continue policies f irst implemented by the previous Lafayette Parish Sheriff. Supporters of this plan also note that escaping from a facility at this location would be nearly impossible considering that no human being is ever known to have successfully crossed Kaliste Saloom or Verot School Road.
And what of the existing parish courthouse? Although parish officials previously suggested that the building could be turned into government offices, there has been a push in some circles to redevelop the courthouse into a mixed-use building. With escalator access between the first and second floors of the courthouse, planners have speculated that this space, which has been home to the Clerk of Court, could be the perfect venue for a mega-club along the lines of longtime local favorite Karma. If these plans come to fruition, floors three and four would be used for office space, with floors five through seven being repurposed as residences. LCG officials admit that moving the courthouse out of downtown could reverse the results of decades of investment and cause Lafayette's oldest neighborhood to stagnate, but the opportunity to construct residential units downtown – a long-term policy goal – should soften the blow.
Certainly, the move will be bittersweet for most Lafayette Parish residents. The current incarnation of the Parish Courthouse is universally beloved for its functionality and its bold architectural design – a design that embodies the classical ideal that justice is blind. But nostalgia for the past must give way to progress. And so the Editorial Committee of The Promulgator is proud to break the news of our brand new Palais de Justice to our devoted readers, and we pledge to keep you updated as more news becomes available.
The next update will likely be on April Fool's day in 2018.