Photo by Kari Walker
Geoff Dyer, left, and Nathan Norris
The Downtown Development Authority Thursday introduced its design director, Geoff Dyer, who began work in the newly minted position about a month ago. The hire of Dyer, an award-winning urban designer who comes to Lafayette from Calgary where he most recently worked for PlaceMakers Canada, a sister company to Placemakers LLC in the U.S., the urban design firm DDA Executive Director Nathan Norris co-founded.
“This is a unique experience for me where I have a huge opportunity to get involved in a place and see it really come off of the ground and be a world-class downtown,” Dyer said Thursday at a press conference on the 12th floor of the IberiaBank building. “What I found [upon looking into Lafayette] is just the types of things [Norris] is talking about: great economy, great civic leadership, can-do attitude, a downtown with tons of amenities ... and what it really needed was residents.”
Increasing the residential component in the downtown area has been Norris’ stated objective since he took the gig, and he admits the process of transforming downtown Lafayette’s development complexion while still maintaining its character will take years. “The real challenge we have right now is the challenge of time. Development doesn’t just occur by waving a magic wand or by giving the great designer the gear,” he said. “When we see construction, when we see units that are available to be leased or purchased — that’s going to be two years from now. That’s the last step of actual real estate development. Now we’re just going to be building the foundations over the next six months or year to get development in the pipeline.”
Dyer will serve as a liaison of sorts between DDA, developers and property owners, offering what will more or less be a free design service to the latter, helping guide their construction and design decisions. Dyers’ hire is the most recent gale in a whirlwind year for DDA, which announced the hire of Norris in January following the retirement last year of longtime DDA chief Cathy Webre.
“We in Lafayette were able, somehow — I still can’t believe we got him — to attract a guy that is top five in this field in the country,” DDA board Chairman Pat Trahan said of Norris. Trahan was equally effusive about DDA’s latest hire: “[Dyer is] top 10 in his field in what he does, probably higher. And [he and Norris are] here in Lafayette, La., and that just makes it real exciting.”