Vidalia creating start-up haven in former City Hall building

Published 12:13am Thursday, November 7, 2013

VIDALIA — The site of the former Vidalia City Hall could be home to a new, 6,000-square foot technology and business center by the fall of 2014.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said the center will cost approximately $1.2 million, and the city is in the process of applying for a grant through federal economic development agencies.

The former City Hall building will be torn down to accommodate the new construction, he said.

Copeland’s statements followed an announcement from Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office that the city would be partnering with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center to open a satellite office in Vidalia to help small startup businesses get off the ground and established small businesses grow.

The satellite office will eventually be located in the new facility on Spruce Street, but until the new center opens, the LSBDC office will be housed in the city’s information technology department and serve clients at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

The completed center will have shared-space incubation facilities, a small-business training and counseling center and access to high-speed broadband Internet.

“I am pleased to announce this new partnership that will improve entrepreneurship in rural areas of central and northeast Louisiana,” Landrieu said.  “Vidalia is a dynamic city that anchors the delta region and is an excellent location to host this satellite office. I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Copeland to promote economic development in Vidalia.”

Copeland said Landrieu has always been helpful with economic development projects, including with the Vidalia port.

“We wanted to do something looking to give young entrepreneurs the opportunity to use that space (at the old City Hall), and this is a good way to do that,” he said.

Other plans for the former City Hall have been discussed since the city government moved to its new three-building complex on the western end of town, but Copeland said the initial environmental concerns that prompted the city to build the new complex ultimately demanded the old City Hall be torn down.

When the new complex was announced in 2009, a significant black mold infestation at the Spruce Street location that followed a leak caused by Hurricane Gustav was cited as the principle reason behind the move to a new location.

“That building is between 60-70 years old, and we own the property and we are going to have to do something with it,” Copeland said. “With the black mold, it would have cost as much to mitigate the mold as it would to build a new building.”

The building’s former use as a bank is also space inefficient for almost anything other than banking, he said.

The mayor said the engineering for tearing the old building down would likely be done in-house, and the process for starting demolition would begin within 90 days.