Excitement continues to mount as current indicators of residential and commercial real estate development turn our focus north to an area rich with opportunity, resources and challenges. Upper Lafayette and Carencro possess some of our most beautiful gently rolling hills, tree lined pastures and prime opportunities for business expansion, real estate development and economic growth. The area around the I-10/I-49 crossroads is enjoying record growth due to affordable available land in uncongested areas, convenience to major thoroughfares, and proximity to the airport.
There were 1,161 residential rooftops and multi-family developments approved for development in upper Lafayette and Carencro for 2007, an increase of 68 percent over 2006. While this does not reflect actual construction and sales, it is an indicator of developer interest. Bob Austin of Bob Austin Homes says residential developers are excited about the potential of this desirable area and are diligently working through the learning process of selecting the right product for the right location. Carencro experienced an 80 percent increase in home sales over the last year. Confidence is further evidenced by the January groundbreaking on the first St. Jude’s home to be constructed north of I-10, located in La Bon Vie subdivision.
Visionary residents and business owners, under the leadership of Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation’s Executive Director Jan Swift, will be proactive collaborators with Lafayette Consolidated Government, LEDA, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and other local government agencies and departments. The focus is on promoting and assisting in the positive development of the northern corridor’s infrastructure and positively planned, sustainable growth. (For more info or to join the foundation, contact Swift at 572-9877, ext. 108.)
Commercial development deliberation was spurred by the 2003 visionary relocation of Schilling Distributing to its 25-acre Moss Street address. Several area businesses are reporting significant growth, as is evidenced by the current expansion of Hub City Ford on NW Evangeline Thruway.
Of special interest is the potential for the 200-plus-acre site that was formerly Evangeline Downs. The entrepreneurial spark, creative spirit and industrious nature of our people are evidenced in the plans that local developers Carrol Castille and Larry Leger are preparing to unveil for 2008 – 2009 developments:
— Gated residential development of approximately 100 lots featuring options ranging from .5 acres to 2 acres. Lot sales will begin late spring 2008.
— A hotel and convention center will open by early 2009.
— Nine acres of family-style entertainment which will include the nation’s second two-story targeted driving range, 45,000 square feet of arcades to include virtual hunting and other sports, eight lanes of bowling, batting cages, 18 holes of putt-putt golf, a sports bar and grill and more. This development sets in place momentum for other uses under consideration. Plans are under way for 300,000 square feet of retail on the remaining commercial acreage.
As infrastructure comes online, pent up demand in underserved markets such as this one fuel explosive real estate developments. With the completion of Louisiana Avenue at I-10, Stirling Properties’ 600,000-square-foot Target-anchored retail development continues its progress. When completed, this retail project will create 600 jobs and have an economic impact of more than $100 million per year. The residential and income growth in our retail trade area positioned us to be a two-store market for many national retailers, many of whom view this as a strategic location. Shoppers will enjoy additional locations for Target, JCPenney, Ross, Hibbett Sports and Office Depot, along with a number of retailers who will be entering the market.
Arterial growth is occurring along the widening of Pont des Mouton from I-49 to University Avenue. Evangeline Bank of Ville Platte is locating a branch at the corner of Pont des Mouton and the I-49 service road. FlightSafety’s new 70,000-square-foot Learning Center, which will open in late 2008 in North Park Technology Center, bodes well for increased employment and retail growth. Lafayette is the 44th facility for the fixed wing aircraft and helicopter flight training company.
Evangeline Court Marketplace, a 32-acre retail development at I-49 and Hector Connolly Road, is planned for 150,000 square feet of retail and several out parcels. Negotiations are under way with a grocery story, drugstore, hair salon and dry cleaners, among others. Groundbreaking for Phase I is summer 2008.
Across I-49 on Veterans is Professional Plaza, a 13,000-square-foot Stirling Properties development anchored by a new location for Melancon’s Pharmacy. Remaining space will be office use, and July 2008 occupancy dates are anticipated.
Other projects picking up steam include:
Hero’s point business park
Momentum is heightened at the 28-acre mixed use development just north of I-10 at Renaud Drive. The first building in Phase I is under construction and will be 68,500 square feet. The developer is currently meeting with office, hospitality, retail and industrial users and tenants will be firmed up shortly.
Phase I of Acadian Ambulance’s new 50-acre campus on University Avenue north of I-10 includes five buildings: education buildings totaling 50,000 square feet, an office building of 15,000 square feet, a dormitory that will house up to 100 people and a cafeteria with capacity to feed 150 people. This part of the project will encompass approximately 22 acres, and is part of the company’s development plan for the next five years.
Additional site selection for developments cautiously awaits outcomes of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Insurance Rate Map floodway designation, but there has been some progress. Tom Carroll, director of Public Works, says a Dec. 18 meeting was held with FEMA officials to orient local officials on the mapping process, upcoming appeal process and anticipated approval periods.
Two public notices were posted, and a 90-day appeal period follows the second notice. FEMA will respond to the community and appellant; a 30-day review and comment period follows. A Final Base Flood Elevation Determination letter will be issued upon completion of all appeals. Carroll indicates the communities are obligated upon receipt of the BFE to begin use of the map in permit issuance. “Grandfather” provisions for insurance purposes are available for properties/buildings existing prior to the LFD. The time frame for the entire process may be 12–18 months.
Although the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map poses caution and concern for some future developments, there is sufficient meaningful development progress to bring transformational economic vitality to the region. The entrepreneurial energy of our talented residents, business owners and developers historically has them finding opportunities in challenges. The road northward is paved with great potential.