Acadiana Outreach tempers plans for its Joie De Vivre housing complex near downtown based on financial constraints and neighborhood concerns. By Nathan Stubbs
Despite the controversy the project has generated among some Mills Addition residents who fear the complex’s impact on their historic neighborhood, Acadiana Outreach Center CEO Rick Newton sees his organization’s Joie De Vivre affordable housing development as a natural extension of the nonprofit’s mission to assist the poor and unemployed. And Newton is confident the development will be a community asset.
“We’ve always asked the question about the root cause of poverty,” Newton says, “helping people to become self sufficient. This is one more step to have an impact on the area itself, the community. To step in and reclaim and help revitalize an area. I think this project is going to be a tremendous example of that.”
Planners have reorganized the Joie de Vivre development as a six building, $16.5 million project.
AOC has now re-envisioned Joie De Vivre as a six building, $16.5 million project. The complex went from 118 to 72 rental units, a 39 percent reduction in density. While financing certainly played a role in the changes, planners insist their primary motivation was winning over support from the entire community.
“The biggest reason [for the changes] is what we heard from the public,” says Cartesian Company President Greg Gachassin. “We listened to those concerns and tried to reduce density where we could.” In addition to the lighter footprint, planners added a brick facade on the building’s lower level to tone down an ultra-modern design many Mills Addition residents thought clashed with the surrounding architecture. They also increased the development’s parking space ratio from 1.23 to 1.68 spaces per unit.
With the new design, the would-be developers lost some of their originally proposed retail space, including a large first floor space fronting Congress Street viewed as ideal for a grocery store (the design still includes space for a day care and community center). AOC still hopes to add more retail, and additional residential space, over time. Gachassin notes that splitting the project up in phases was something that was recommended by officials with the Downtown Development Authority, as a way to help soften the immediate impact of the development. Another issue was three pieces of property that AOC was unable to acquire for the development. “I think as we build it, we’ll be successful in picking up others as people grow in confidence in what we’re doing,” Gachassin says.
Gachassin also has busily worked to allay concerns over the type of residents who will be moving into Joie De Vivre. Because of its public funding, the development will have to meet strict guidelines aimed at pinning the development to its mission of providing affordable housing. Joie De Vivre will rent one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments exclusively to low-income workers making no more than 60 percent of Lafayette’s annual Area Median Income (a requirement of the federal tax credit program). Lafayette’s current AMI is $57,500 for a four-person household. That means a four-person family wanting to rent at Joie De Vivre can make no more than $34,980. A two-person household can make no more than $28,020 and a single person’s salary is capped at $24,540. Gachassin, however, says tenants whose salaries rise above these levels after they begin living at Joie De Vivre can stay and even renew their leases.
Addressing concerns that the development will admit residents with Section 8 vouchers, Gachassin says this is required by federal law and is no different from most apartment complexes in town, the majority of which are federally insured or financed. To make his point, he says the two big apartment complexes in River Ranch must also accept Section 8 vouchers, because the mortgage insurance on those projects is backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — an assertion an assistant manager for The Crescent denies; she says neither The Crescent nor its sister apartment complex, Main Street at River Ranch, accepts Section 8 vouchers.
|A day care and community center are planned as part of Joie de Vivre.
Gachassin also is quick to point out that Joie De Vivre, like most apartment complexes, will have a third party property management company that will screen tenants through criminal background checks and have a zero tolerance drug policy. Joie De Vivre is targeting young professionals and artists who work in the downtown area. “It’s about how you market,” Gachassin says. “It’s about who you target. And it’s about how you set yourself up.”
In its tax credit application, AOC also scored points for electing to serve one of three classifications of special needs households: homeless households, disabled households and individuals with children. AOC elected to serve individuals with children, meaning that 20 percent of housing at Joie De Vivre, or 15 units, must be dedicated to low-income families.
AOC’s tax credit application was submitted in September for Joie De Vivre and requests $1.5 million a year in credits over 10 years, a total of $15 million. Developers project they can sell those credits up front for approximately $12 million (see funding breakdown chart). The development has also received $1.25 million in state and federal grants, and plans to secure a $1 million loan from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority and a $2.2 million mortgage, contingent upon being awarded the tax credits.
The Joie De Vivre development is one of 70 projects competing for some $8 million in tax credits available this year for the entire state. The LHFA will announce tax credit recipients no sooner than December. If successful in its tax credit application, Joie De Vivre could break ground early next year and be open for business sometime in 2012.
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Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
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The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)