Since The Independent Weekly reported City-Parish President Joey Durel's interest in converting the 100-acre UL horse farm into a public park, a number of influential business leaders have contacted him to get involved in the effort to preserve the community landmark. Durel's interest in the Johnston Street land was noted in an Independent editorial calling for UL President Ray Authement to back off the proposed exchange of 36 acres of the horse farm for 4 acres of attorney Jimmy Davidson's residential property on Girard Park Drive ("Open Letter to Authement: Kill the Deal," Dec. 7).
Durel says the interested parties ' which include individuals from the real estate, legal and manufacturing sectors ' are not only proposing a public-private partnership, but they are also willing to provide their services free of charge. One individual has apparently offered to donate the funds for the land-purchase portion of the venture, but Durel declined to identify any of the potential partners at this time.
An outright sale of the state-owned farm will require a public bid process (which may jeopardize Lafayette Consolidated Government's position), and Authement has said the university would be able to keep any proceeds to buy land closer to campus. However, local government may be able to structure a land swap of its own, as Durel is willing to exchange the city's 8-acre Youth Park, which ' unlike Davidson's property ' is contiguous with the university. He's also indicated an interest in turning over part of Girard Park near the Alumni Center, what appears to be a suitable spot for a new university president's home. (Authement says his home near Martin Hall will eventually be consumed for university expansion.)
If the land is secured by LCG, possibly via a swap and donations channeled through the 5-year-old Community Foundation of Acadiana, any plan to finance the horse farm's transition into a public park will likely be aided by the numerous volunteers from organizations such as www.savethehorsefarm.com, who are researching grants and other mechanisms that may be available. It's also possible a portion of the horse farm may need to be sold off for residential development, Durel says, to help raise funds for the park.
Durel hopes Authement will view his plan as a welcome option to the current land-swap deal the community overwhelmingly opposes and at press time was trying to set up a meeting with the university president.
Authement, who in the past has not expressed any willingness to entertain alternatives to the deal now on the table, is now willing to listen. "If there's anyone out there that would like to propose a plan, he would be more than happy to talk to them," says UL spokeswoman Julie Dronet.
"There are just so many possibilities," says Durel, who hopes to secure the acreage quickly to protect the pristine land from commercial encroachment. "[If] this thing is developed into cement, it's over," he notes. "Ideally, it would be wonderful to have 100 acres with as little cement as possible, with ponds, lakes, an amphitheater, more pedestrian, bicycle-type [activities]." He also wants to restore the two small homes and antiquated dairy barn, all of which are in dismal disrepair.
In discussions with students, Authement put a general price tag on the horse farm. In his first meeting with students, the 77-year-old university president said he'd sell the farm for $8 million, according to UL student Elizabeth Brooks, one of the organizers of the "Save the Horse Farm" effort. In a subsequent meeting, says Brooks, Authement indicated $8 million would be the starting price, and a public bid would determine the actual sales price. Last week The Independent reported that the Board of Supervisors for the UL System has called for a new, independent appraisal of both the horse farm and Davidson's Girard Park property, which were each previously valued by two different university-hired appraisers at $3.25 million.
The Board of Supervisors, which approved the now controversial land swap in August, would have to give its nod to any new arrangement, whether in the form of a restructuring of the current exchange or a new one with LCG. The university is seeking to rezone the front portion of the horse farm from residential to business but had initially proposed to swap that portion at its lower residential value. The board later ordered that it be re-appraised based on its pending rezoning application to commercial, which increased its value from $3.25 million to $5.37 million.
As he explores various options and hopes to get Authement's ear, Durel is keeping the university's interests in mind. "The one thing we can't lose sight of is the university has some needs ' that [land swap] was a way for them to satisfy some of those needs," Durel says. "They evidently either need land or money."
September's $509 million in sales pushed Lafayette Parish's nine-month total to $4.4 billion.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
From jewelry to home goods, deals abound
Forgiving shapes for NOLA Bowl
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The New Orleans architect behind the 1984 World’s Fair also left his mark on Lafayette.
Laid back vibe just right for NOLA Bowl
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
Week long specials and a ribbon cutting celebration held in Parc Lafayette
Fort Worth company's new facility at Lafayette Regional Airport will build helicopters primarily for the export market.
Could River Ranch restaurant be the next star?
Move over Hooters — there’s a new breastaurant coming to town.
Hashtag, retweet, like, share and do whatever else it takes to get in good today with the jolly man in red.