"Nothing is in writing," says Durel, who maintains he requested a first right of refusal. "[Authement] said he'd talk to us before he does anything." In December Durel initially expressed interest in preserving the horse farm or developing it into a community park, but no concrete design or funding plans have yet to emerge.
"I feel like I've got to bring this to another level," says Durel, who recently sought input on the project from design experts who had gathered for an urban planning conference in New Orleans.
In mid-August Durel was invited to the 2006 Mayors' Institute on City Design. The institute covers a 14-state southern region, but this year it concentrated on Louisiana because of last year's storms. Mayors from Gretna, Covington, Slidell and Baton Rouge made presentations on projects of their choosing, and Durel's focus was the horse farm. The panelists ' a planning director from Birmingham, a former professor of landscape architecture, and a number of architects and architectural scholars ' took a special interest in the preservation of this community asset, according to Durel. "They seemed to be more excited about our project than anything else."
Hosted by the Tulane Regional Urban Design Center at Tulane University, this year's conference was also of particular interest for Grover Mouton, TRUDC's founder and director. Mouton is a Lafayette native, grandson of the late J.B. Mouton and a descendant of some of the city's founders, including Jean Mouton.
"I have been hosting these institutes for nearly 15 years with the participation of more than 50 mayors and have not had the opportunity to host my hometown," says Mouton. "It was a great experience for me, and the project is a great opportunity for the city. The city has grown so fast, both naturally and due to the exodus from New Orleans, and for that reason we felt it was important to have Durel with us."
Mouton says the panel of architects and urban planners suggested the horse farm be preserved as an open space to reference the parish's history of ranching and horse breeding. "There continues to be a great deal of interest in this area today, and the farm could play a role in developing a sense of place in the geographic center of the city," continues Mouton, who visited the acreage with Durel before the conference. "The space should be open to the public, but it is important that it should have a use, including established pathways and minimal structures that could include shading devices or even an amphitheater."
Mouton says the discussion also focused on how to best develop the park's edge, with a recommendation that it offer intermittent yet accessible connections to the surrounding neighborhoods.
"Any built structures must be passive in nature, with the issue of landscape maintenance and views thoroughly examined," he says. "When passive uses are introduced, there is a wonderful opportunity to engage the nearby neighborhoods. The adjacency to the Johnston Street corridor is also important, acting as the 'front door' of the park."
Mouton holds the project up as a prime example of how the Durel administration can work to make Lafayette a leader in design by creating quality environments for its residents. The institute's mission is to prepare mayors to be the chief urban designers in their cities.
Established by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986, the Mayors' Institute is now administered by the American Architectural Foundation in partnership with the NEA and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Mouton notes that a follow-up workshop in Lafayette with the panelists is an option. "The panel was impressed with the various developments in Lafayette [which Durel discussed]," he says. "If the city is interested, the TRUDC will try to work out the details that would make this kind of charrette a possibility."
For the past year, the horse farm property has been a source of controversy because of the university's proposed land swap that would have converted the front acreage into a retail center. In July, amid community opposition and questions about the value of attorney Jimmy Davidson's Girard Park Drive property the university was seeking to acquire and the horse farm acreage it was selling, Authement called off the swap. (The Independent Weekly has sued the university for access to a new appraisal of the Davidson property; the case is in the discovery phase, with a court hearing set for Sept. 11.)
Save the Horse Farm, a community group established last year to preserve the property, is exploring a number of options to fund a purchase of the acreage and has been inviting professionals with fund-raising experience to its meetings. The group meets on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of the downtown public library.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
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.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
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.