Old firehouse torn down, new office planned

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 5, 2015

Construction crews are continuing work on a new Georgia public health district headquarters in downtown LaGrange today.

Workers are demolishing the former fire station on Main Street as they prepare to build the new state health department’s district four health services building downtown, according to Bobby Carmichael, executive director of the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority.

DLDA leaders expect the site to be cleared of debris from the old building by the end of next week.

“The contractor has 11 months to complete the project,” Carmichael said.

The plot of land is owned by the Callaway Foundation and has been deeded to the DLDA to serve as the new district four headquarters. The project is expected to cost a total of $3.5 million, but the Callaway Foundation has provided a $1.2 million in grant money to support the work.

“We are excited about this new building that will replace the fire station and be a wonderful addition to the south end of the downtown district,” said Speer Burdette, president of the Callaway Foundation.

The DLDA is working with Smith Design Group, an architectural company based in LaGrange, as well as district four health director Dr. Olubenga Obasanjo, to develop the new building’s design.

“The drawings have made it real to us, folks are planning where they will put their plants,” Obasanjo told the Daily News in May. “We are all very excited, it’s a move that has been on the books for a while.”

The DLDA plans to lease the building to district four for 20 years. Before demolition began, Carmichael said that the old firehouse building contained some levels of asbestos, of which crews are disposing. Freeman & Associates, a contractor based in Columbus, will be handling construction for the project.

More recently, the fire station was temporarily used as a warming shelter during the winter months for homeless folks who had no where to go to get out of the cold. The center was the first of its kind for LaGrange and the only warming shelter between Atlanta and Columbus.

“Being downtown will help us get a better pulse of the community we serve,” said Obasanjo. “People usually do not think of public health until there is an emergency. Our increased visibility will help our community focus on what we do and help us engage the community to improve its health.”

Carmichael also noted that district four employees are excited about moving downtown to take advantage of the many attractions around Lafayette Square.