March 7, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
You may remember the Foundry, Montana's, Gringos or Louviere's . But this time, it's not a restaurant making its home in the historic Reiser's machine shop downtown on Pine Street. And some say it may be the start of something big.
An old photo of the building with workers posing in front, reveals a glimpse of what it looked like around the turn of the century. Now, 100 years later, the historic building will return to a use that reflects its historic roots. Business partners Mike Nodier and Gerry Obluda are making it the headquarters for Polaris engineering. Says Nodier, "We really like the look of the building. We provide engineering services for the local industries and for heavy industry in general and it kind of had that feel to it."
Obluda agrees, "They were building really cool machines. If you look at the history, they had a machine shop here where they could make fancy equipment that could be made nowhere else on the whole Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Corpus Christi."
Inside, the original walls and rafters built in the late 1800's are preserved while, what preservationists call adaptive reuse, brings about modern office space. Nodier says, "With it being an old machine shop it's got the big beams inside and some overhead cranes. It kind of fit in with what we were doing."
Both downtown developers and historic preservationists applaud the project saying the distinctive building is an architectural gem that could plant the seed to attract more professional & technology firms to the immediate area-- kind of the way the Oil Center started in Lafayette years ago. Obluda admits, "We think someday the values are going to go up a lot around here and that this'll be the place to be and we can say we were the first ones here."
Downtown development officials encourage others to look at the possibilities of old buildings and vacant land nearb.
Polaris moves into its new building at the end of the month.