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.
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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.