Joe Cooper Rolfe of the Starr Homeplace joined us on the show to give us the details of what is happening to this historic building. Click the video above to watch.
Rolfe also penned an article highlighting the situation:
Architectural Gem In Need of a Purpose by Joe Rolfe
OAK RIDGE -- It is remarkable that this handsome building should have been built to serve a community of less than 500 in the flat delta farmlands of Northeastern Louisiana. The monumentally scaled portico of the East front makes it among the most attractive structures in the region. The Neo-Classical revival building was completed in 1925 and graduated its first class in 1926. It continued to operate as a school until school consolidation forced closure in 1969. After some years of use for agricultural storage, the building faced a future of disuse and deterioration. In the 1990s the structure was purchased by Clark M Williams Sr. Mr. Williams was an alumni of the school and Founder of Century Link. He began an extensive, and expensive, remodeling of the structure to serve as modern flex- plan, adaptive re-use office space. Many parts of the renovation were completed under his supervision. Sadly, Mr Williams passed away before the project could be finished.
The central block of the building is 95 x 65 feet. There are roughly 22,000 square feet on four levels; a basement, two main floors, and attic space. The basement, first and second floors are designed to be completed as open plan flex space. The attic space is divided into work stations between the massive roof beams. The first floor includes a large two story assembly space and stage. One hundred sixty windows create an interior flooded with natural light. Basement ramping and an elevator make the entire space barrier free.
Many of the most costly aspects of the renovation have been completed.. The roof and windows have been replaced. All exterior brickwork has been re-pointed. A new elevator is installed. Asbestos removal has been completed. Anti-mold treatment of wood has been done. A sprinkler system is installed. A C system is largely complete. Full engineering plans have been prepared. The building now sits ready to be completed for a particular tenant with the addition of wiring, plumbing, and interior finishes. Despite the substantial sums already expended, the Williams Family has generously agreed to donate the building for economic development. If a suitable tenant can be found, they can obtain the structure at substantially lower costs than new construction. Conditions would include the completion of the re-model and creation of jobs in the community.
The Village of Oak Ridge is hardly large enough to staff as many jobs as the structure might accommodate. Bastrop, Rayville and Mer Rouge are within fifteen light traffic miles. I-20 is twelve miles away and US 425, a major North-South route, runs through Oak Ridge. Monroe, with an airport, university, and community college is thirty miles away. Northeastern Louisiana can boast being, north of the hurricanes, east of the tornadoes and south of the snow and ice.
If a suitable tenant and use can be found for this handsome building, it will be an appropriate legacy for those who built, maintained, and preserved it.
For further information contact: Joe Cooper Rolfe, P.O. Box 146, Oak Ridge, LA 71264
Cell: 318 758 1758
Alternative contact: Kay King, 318-355-0091
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