Then & Now

A look at the past and future of the Port of South Louisiana on the 60th anniversary of its founding.

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PHOTO LEFT: Globalplex 1992


The history and evolution of the Port’s world-class multimodal facility

When the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal was first opened in 1992, it was envisioned as a world-class multimodal facility that would serve as the heart of the Port of South Louisiana’s economic growth — and its success has both met and surpassed those expectations.

Sprawling over 335 acres, Globalplex is a maritime industrial park whose confluence of water, road and rail capabilities make it a one-stop service terminal for bulk shipping and transportation. Owned by the Port and operated by Associated Terminals, Globalplex’s ever-expanding services — including cargo handling, docking, warehousing and stevedoring — have made it a convenient and accommodating space for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies.

That the terminal has become such a flexible and prosperous asset is no accident, and is instead the result of years of strategic planning and maximized growth opportunities.

Even before the Globalplex took shape, the land was always an economic driver, previously serving as the location of the locally-owned and operated Godchaux-Henderson Refinery. The sugar refinery closed in 1985, and the site was briefly owned by Barry Silverton and Pacific Malibu Development Corporation of California, who began its conversion into a bulk cargo shipping terminal. The Port purchased the property in 1992, renamed it “Globalplex,” and immediately began to strengthen its infrastructure in preparation for what they hoped would become an appealing location for tenants.

At the time, the Port was helmed by Coast Guard Capt. Richard Clements (Ret.), who oversaw the purchase for $12.5 million. Clements also coordinated the initial general cargo dock construction and the public-private redevelopment of the existing bulk dock.

“The capabilities of that location made it a natural purchase,” former Port Director Joe Accardo told Port Log in 2018. Accardo was also the Port’s attorney when the sugar refinery land was acquired. “There was room to grow, room to expand. That made it possible to reach the long-term plan of developing Globalplex to be a bulk cargo and general cargo facility that would expand employment. Globalplex represented the Port’s most-aggressive effort to directly engage in operating terminals.”

Globalplex’s growth has been steadily incremental and always positive. Its 72,000 sq.-foot warehouse/transit shed and rail spur was erected in 2005, with another transit shed following in 2010 (this one built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane). Further developments include the 700-foot long, 65-foot wide Finger Pier, which enables up to three ships being docked at one time, and the Maritime Security Operations Center — a 2,000 square-foot hardened concrete and steel building furnished with impact-resistant glass that can withstand hurricane-force winds.

Even after all that growth — and after welcoming four tenants onto the Globalplex site — there are still 130 acres of land available for further industrial development. This leaves the door of opportunity wide open to welcome additional tenants or to further expand the Port’s own physical footprint.

“As they say, we’ve kept the ‘pedal to the metal’ with improvement projects to Globalplex,” says Port Executive Director Paul Aucoin. “If you don’t do that, you fall behind. Everything we’ve done to Globalplex has been done with our mission in mind: Promote Maritime Commerce, Trade and Development and to Establish Public/Private Partnerships for the Creation of Intermodal Industrial Facilities.”


Finalframe Guesthouse

This report made possible by contributions from Alexandra Hernandez, Laura Westbrook, and L’Observateur


A look inside the historic Godchaux “Summer House”on the Port grounds.

A jewel within the grounds of the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal general cargo facility is the historic Guesthouse, an antebellum-style home built by the Godchaux family in 1909.

Originally called the “Summer House,” the two-story building predates the levee it parallels and was used to entertain the Godchaux’s visiting family, friends and business associates. That function ultimately led to the building’s enduring name of “Guesthouse” and has remained unchanged. The home is now used to host community events and to entertain guests and dignitaries visiting the Port of South Louisiana, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and International Sustainable Resilience Center, Inc. (ISRC), who visited the Port in March 2020.

When it was first built, the Guesthouse’s first floor contained a large foyer with living and dining rooms on either side, a spacious hall leading to the kitchen and butler’s pantry, and a bathroom. The second floor contained four bedrooms with fireplaces, two bathrooms, and a balcony. A large formal living room and a new dining room were added to the rear after the Godchaux family sold the refinery in 1958. While the building still sits in its original location, both the interior and exterior have undergone several restorations and modernizations, most occurring after the sugar refinery’s ownership changes in the 1960s.

Such modifications included restoration of the original cypress floors, repairs to the wrap-around porch, and the addition of a bricked rose garden and swimming pool. As a result of a decline in world sugar markets, the refinery was shut down in 1985, and the pool was closed and covered. In the late 1980s, the Guesthouse was damaged by a first floor fire, with the kitchen and dining room sustaining the most damage. However, the mansion and surrounding grounds have been fully restored since the Port of South Louisiana purchased the Godchaux property in 1992; to bring back some of its original style and beauty, the Port reworked its wooden floors, replaced curtains and rugs, and added period decor to suit the original style of the home’s furnishings.

The Guesthouse grounds also contain other historical elements dating back to its original owners, including one of Godchaux Sugar Refinery’s steam engines, presumed lost for years. Around 1890, Godchaux began using a tramway along a 20-mile stretch to transport sugar cane from the fields to the refinery. Locomotive number 3, which was purchased in 1898, had been away from Reserve since the mid-1980s. A few years after the Port of South Louisiana acquired the property and began its transformation into the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal, the search began to locate the locomotive. After extensive research, engine No. 3 was found, sitting idle and in disrepair at the Republic of West Florida Historical Museum in Jackson, Louisiana. It had resided there since 1984, on loan from the Godchauxs.

Steam engine No. 3 was transferred back to Reserve and was initially placed on the southeast corner of River Road and West 10th Street, adjacent to Godchaux family home. Community partners including River Road Historical Society, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Highland Fabricators Inc. and Environmental Coating Services sponsored the restoration of the steam engine’s structure, and when the locomotive was moved to the grounds of the Guesthouse, the Port of South Louisiana invested in further renovations. It was sandblasted, and woodwork and brass parts were replaced. Accessories such as a bell and whistle were installed after it was painted and pin-striped. Lastly, to protect it from the elements, a steel building similar in appearance to a train station was erected over the engine.

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Just like the Guesthouse, the Godchaux family home has its own storied history. The family lived in the Reserve plantation house, which was built in 1764 and is now known as the Godchaux-Reserve House. After years of neglect, the building fell into a state of disrepair and was nearly demolished in 1992.

However, to preserve what many considered a significant historical landmark, the house was moved to West 10th Street and River Road in 1993 after the Port of South Louisiana conveyed ownership to the River Road Historical Society. Following the arduous process of securing funding for the sale and relocation of the house, interest in the restoration waned for two decades.

The home remained in a decrepit state until 2015, when the Godchaux-Reserve House Historical Society began an extensive restabilization and restoration process, seeking to once and for all honor the majesty and splendor of the original architecture. The exterior restoration was completed in 2018 and was celebrated by locals and members of the Godchaux-Reserve House Historical Society, who dressed in era-appropriate clothing. The next steps of the project are ongoing and, when completed, will see the house outfitted with electrical wiring and restrooms in order to usher in the house’s new life as a historical museum.


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Executive Regional Airport

How the Port expanded the airways in the River Region

One of the most physically telling signs of the Port of South Louisiana’s growth is the expansion and improvement of the Executive Regional Airport. Nearly equidistant to both New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the airport serves as an aerial gateway into the River Regions, welcoming aircraft of all sizes for business, corporate and personal travel.

Like the Globalplex, The Executive Regional Airport (KAPS) was a strategic acquisition by the Port commission. St. John the Baptist Parish built the runway in 1982 with grants from the Federal Aviation Administration; at the time, the site consisted of a terminal building, two tenant-built hangars, a tie down apron and two t-hangar units built and leased by a tenant. Meanwhile, the runway was steadily expanded with additional FAA grants until 2000, though its length of approximately 4,000 feet still limited use to small aircraft. As a result, the St. John airport was most frequented by recreational pilots.

The Port saw an opportunity to expand the airport’s capabilities, effectively enhancing the surrounding community by accommodating commercial aircraft and incorporating cargo services further down the line. Taking on the project first required an agreement to transfer the airport from St. John Parish to the Port of South Louisiana. That process formally began in 2009 and lasted until August 2012, at which time the FAA approved the Port as the new sponsor of the airport, though the Port had assumed all the expenses during the four-year review period as part of its lease with St. John Parish.

Following FAA approval, the Port purchased 72 acres of land to accommodate an extended runway of approximately 5,150 feet, along with several other renovation and expansion projects amounting to more than $8.5 million since 2012. The Port installed its Aviation Weather Station in 2014, a Jet A Fuel Tank and Dispensing System in 2015 (previously, the only fuel offered was AvGas), and in 2017 opened a 6,500 foot public transient hangar. Aptly called Hangar 1, it’s suited for the aircraft of daily and overnight visitors and is equipped to handle every foreseeable need of the traveler and flight crew. The $600,000 hangar protects aircraft from the array of dubious weather found in South Louisiana and features storage units for passenger property and restrooms.

The Port also notched several improvements in 2020, including an extension of the North Taxiway, the completion of a Runway 17-35 overlay and the construction of a 10-unit T-Hangar and apron, for the first providing leasing opportunities for the public. Another row of hangars is slated for construction in 2021 and will feature both box and T-Hangar units.
Airport Director Lisa Braud says that each improvement, while impressive enough alone, amounts to revenue opportunities not only for the Port, but for the surrounding community. The Port has long been a powerful economic driver in the area, but Braud says not many locals recognize the full scope of the Executive Regional Airport’s impact.

“When these hangars are leased to aircraft owners who live in other parts of the region, they drive in here and may purchase automobile fuel, may visit a local restaurant or grocery store, and this boosts St. John’s economy,” Braud says. “This is in addition to businesses flying in to meet with industries along our 54-mile stretch of the Mississippi River. Those persons, depending on the length of stay, will rent a car, stay overnight in a local hotel and visit restaurants.”

In addition, the airport has attracted local business in the form of aviation schools like Let’s Go Fly Academy, which operates out of the Port’s facilities. Getting the community to both understand the value of the airport and to engage with its many programs have been a focal point for the Port’s current administration, Braud says, and the results so far have been a success.

“We have enjoyed bringing community events to the Airport by hosting Fly-Ins on the third Saturday of the month and getting our existing EAA Chapter 971, the Avigators, excited about co-hosting events with us,” she says. “We have hosted the Ford Tri-Motor event, which attracted visitors from all around South Louisiana, along with Pilots N Paws, Pilots for Patients and other fly-ins to attract pilots and visitors. Guys Achieving Goals, an area non-profit, also hosts a yearly St. John Aviation Awareness Day at the Executive Regional Airport, where they have flown over 300 school-aged children each year to promote aviation and aviation careers.”

Braud also says that the Port has contracted airport consulting firm Kutchins & Groh to develop a Master Plan for the Executive Regional Airport. In 2018, the Port completed a multi-phased effort that identified improvements, renovations and additions to fully serve the Port’s community and clientele, and the new Master Plan will help expand their reach and impact even further.

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T Hangers Under Construction