"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.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
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High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
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An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
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A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
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The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
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