Welcome center building completion date Aug. 15
MORGAN CITY, La. — Interior work and other repairs continue on the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau Welcome Center about a month and a half after the building was lifted with the projected completion date for the building set for Aug. 15.
Work on the building is in phase two of the reconstruction of the building, which includes repairing the interior of the building and glass and roof repairs, Lorrie Braus, manager of Phoenix-Cajun Coast, said. The first phase was the lifting and stabilization of the building.
Phoenix-Cajun Coast is a private entity that was created to oversee the reconstruction of the welcome center. Braus was hired in January to manage the entity when reconstruction of the building began.
The main contractor for the reconstruction, Expert House Movers, which lifted the building in May, has stayed on to oversee the completion of the building. Expert House Movers is using subcontractors to do work on the building as well, Braus said.
On June 14, 2012, the building sank about 4.5 feet at the lowest point of the building, but now the building is level and back to its original height.
Much of the materials to complete the building had already been ordered when the building collapsed, Braus said. Items that could be saved, such as doors, were pulled out after the building sagged and put in storage, she said. All the doors on the interior are made of cypress.
“It’s really going to be a fabulous building once it’s completed, and I think everybody will understand why it was so important that this particular site be the perfect site for a tourist center,” Braus said.
The flooring, which will consist of patterned carpet tiles, had not been laid down when the building sank, Braus said. All the holes where piles were driven in order to lift the building have been filled with cement, she said.
Air conditioning has been installed on the second story of the building which will house offices and a conference room, Braus said.
The windows in the building had to be removed before the building could be lifted so they would not break, but workers were able to save most of the windows to be reinstalled, Braus said.
There was one spot after the building was lifted where the cement foundation was square, but the frame was not, so they had to take the frame out to make sure it was square and reinstall it, Braus said.
The reason an entity independent of Cajun Coast was put in charge of the contract to rebuild the center is so the money could flow through a private entity, Phoenix-Cajun Coast. Therefore, public bid law does not apply, and the entity was able to hire a company with expertise in lifting buildings, Braus said.
They have to get the state fire marshal to inspect the building and see all of the electrical work exposed before they put up all the sheet rock, Braus said.
The building will give tourists a chance to view the habitat traditionally associated with south Louisiana.
“This is where people want to be when they come to south Louisiana. They want to be in the middle of the swamps,” Braus said.
“A lot of people might have an expectation and say ‘why in the middle of a swamp? Why would you think that the building would be OK here?’ Well, our interstate system is built through a swamp. If you have the right infrastructure, it’s going to work,” she said. “It was done right this time, no doubt in my mind.”
Once Expert House Movers completes its contracted work on the building, Phoenix-Cajun Coast will turn the project back over to Cajun Coast, Braus said.
Cajun Coast will then add the “interpretative component” to the building, which includes adding panels on the back of the building that have information about the area’s wildlife and interior panels with “everything there is to see and do in St. Mary Parish, Cajun Coast Executive Director Carrie Stansbury said in May. Cajun Coast will also add brochure racks inside the building, she said.
Cajun Coast does not have a projected opening date for the welcome center. The parking lot is being paid for by a federal grant, and Cajun Coast is still going through the process required by the grant program to get the lot built, Stansbury said.
However, Cajun Coast is looking at possibly providing a temporary place to park, which would have to be handicap accessible, before the permanent lot is built, Stansbury said.