"It does a lot of things," says Downtown Development Authority Director Cathy Webre. "It allows us to have that balance with business and commerce so downtown can actually operate as a neighborhood."
Growing a solidified residential community downtown may still be years away, but new construction that will greatly expand downtown residential offerings is about to break ground. The first major new development is a $6.3 million, six-story, upscale condo complex in the 500 block of Jefferson Street. The complex will house a lobby, retail space and a food court on the building's first floor, beneath five floors of residential condos, and will be located in the empty lot between City News Stand and the small, gated park that leads into the Vermilion Street parking garage. Trahan is still working out issues regarding renovations to the city-owned park but plans to begin construction sometime this summer, once he has pre-sold enough condo units.
Trahan's development will contain 30 condo lofts, including both 700-square-foot one-bedroom units and 1,340-square-foot two bedroom units. Tenants will have an array of high-end amenities, including high-speed Internet connections, an exercise room and a rooftop pool adjoining a kitchen and lounge area. Preliminary prices for the lofts run from $210,000 to $359,000.
In marketing his development, Trahan has promoted downtown's access to the Acadiana Center for the Arts, as well as several galleries, parks and entertainment venues. "Our marketing started the weekend of Festival International," he says. "We've had great response ' with several reserved."
Webre hopes Trahan's condo project is the first of many similar developments.
"Residential growth in downtown, at this juncture, is probably going to come from new construction on [vacant] lots," she says. "So this can kind of be a 'show me' project in the sense that if it's successful, it can help catalyze and stimulate other projects."
DDA is promoting the development of new, mixed-use buildings, like Trahan's, which house both retail and residential space. In addition to Trahan's development, Weber says that local developer Jeffery Reddoch, who owns the Jefferson Street building behind Whitney Bank close to the Johnston Street intersection, is considering developing a mixed commercial-residential project. Greg Walls, a local builder who just bought the vacant lot on the corner of St. John and Convent, also is entertaining the idea of a residential development. Attorney Jeff Speer is considering developing condos on top of the Hilton Homewood Suites hotel he is planning adjacent to the federal courthouse. And Weber says DDA also is pushing the mixed-use concept on a few out-of-state companies that have expressed interest in the former Daily Advertiser building on Jefferson Street.
Just how many people, and at what price, will be attracted to living downtown remains to be seen. The results of a DDA-commissioned marketing survey are due in July, and DDA hopes that will answer those questions for developers.
Bill BacquÃ©, CEO of Lafayette real estate firm Van Eaton & Romero, believes positive survey results could persuade real estate investors that downtown is a safe bet. "When you do these marketing feasibility studies," he says, "the basic purpose is to look into the crystal ball and say, 'Is this something that's viable for future development?'" Bacque says developers have typically forsaken downtown in the past for more guaranteed markets, but "there's been enough investment in downtown to make it now attractive as a potential opportunity." He envisions young professionals wanting to live in the area, but families or older couples might be dissuaded by the lack of a nearby grocery store and the proliferation of downtown bars.
"My gut feeling tells me that there is going to be some amount of demand for downtown living space," BacquÃ© continues. "How broad that demand is going to be and how durable it's going to be, I think, are going to be dependent on some other factors."
Webre notes that studies have shown downtown areas nationwide are attracting both young professionals and retiring baby boomers ' both of which find a low-maintenance, pedestrian-friendly environment very appealing. "It's both ends of the spectrum," Webre says. She adds that because of downtown's close proximity to the university, UL Lafayette President Ray Authement has contacted DDA about his interest in having some downtown living spaces for both faculty and students.
A significant residential component downtown has always been a part of DDA's goals set forth in a 1989 master plan. A lack of available building space has made it a slow process. "There probably have been other downtowns in which the residential component has maybe come a little bit sooner," Webre says. "We didn't necessarily have the building inventory to have the rapid conversion into residential development."
"We have to do it backwards," BacquÃ© notes. "It's not like New Orleans, or large metropolitan areas where you could go into a lot of existing and attractive old facilities and retrofit them into living units. We just never had that infrastructure. That's what's happened first in most other urban areas, and then after getting those residents established, then you come in with new developments."
Downtown living spaces in Lafayette have always been rare. In 1995, the Evangeline Apartments opened 86 units for seniors. Outside of the Evangeline, there are a total of 12 residential spaces within the downtown Central Business District.
People told Teche Drugs owner Tom Day that he was crazy when he developed six residential lofts in the space above his drugstore and gift shop on Jefferson Street in the early '90s. "And I was crazy," he says. "I wish I would have put in more apartments and less retail space." Day has never advertised for tenants and keeps a waiting list of people who have inquired about the spacious apartments.
"Downtown there's always something going on," Day says. "It's lively. There's something going on from 5 o'clock in the morning till 2 o'clock in the morning. So you might be bored for three hours, but there's always something to do, people to see. And the security downtown has gotten so much better than it used to be. If I had a choice of moving into a luxury apartment downtown versus a luxury apartment out at River Ranch or somewhere out in the boondocks, well, heck yeah I'd pick downtown."
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.