"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.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
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Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election the same as other candidates, filling out paperwork and handing over qualifying money. But he finished it like no other, doused with ice.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Jell-o sales plummet; Hamas kills suspected informers; bodies arrive in Malaysia and more national and international news for Friday, August 22, 2014.
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A former BP executive will be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom later this month while he awaits trial on charges relating to an investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
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Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
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Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
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A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.