For most of us in Lafayette, downtown is a clearly defined area bounded by Johnston Street, University Avenue, Congress/Second streets and the railroad tracks. For the purposes of zoning and economic development, those boundaries are extended into surrounding neighborhoods, some of them compromised by crime and decay. But we know when we’re downtown, and it irks the hell out of many of the area’s boosters, Downtown Lafayette Unlimited not the least of them, when police attribute an armed robbery at the McKinley Street Strip or an assault on Chestnut Street across the railroad tracks to crimes “downtown.” Neither the tracks — a figurative if not literal boundary — nor the Strip are “downtown,” which has endured some bad press and attendant bad publicity in recent months.
“The downtown is such a landmark, and in people’s minds, when they say downtown, they have a picture of where that is,” says Cathy Webre, DLU executive director. “But there are all kinds of tribulations that can be caused by telling somebody that something happened in downtown when it’s really way over here — and most people actually think of downtown as being Jefferson Street, the Jefferson Street corridor.” DLU Associate Director Jody Nederveld jokes that she’s surprised the recent murder at Beaver Park wasn’t attributed to downtown. In fact, crime in downtown Lafayette has fallen over the last year, and the vast majority of it is garden-variety property crime like car burglaries cultivated by young people so eager to get to the Jefferson Street clubs they leave their car doors unlocked.
So while many in the media including, we must confess, ourselves have poured no small amount of ink into covering issues like crime, downtown Lafayette continues to quietly advance and prosper.
If you’re a newbie in Lafayette — a transplant in the last decade or so — you might assume our venerable downtown has always been this way. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cypress trees, brick-paved sidewalks and fleur-de-lis crosswalks along Jefferson Street are recent additions, part of a face lift not 15 years old that, while interrupted by the vagaries of budgetary prerogatives, will continue this year. Since StreetScape transformed downtown’s main and most recognizable artery in the late 1990s, roughly $140 million dollars in public and private investments have poured into the area.
Like downtowns across the country, ours was once the commercial hub of a small city, and it was the type of commerce that could feed and sustain surrounding neighborhoods: a grocery store was here, and a department store, hardware, a five and dime. But as commerce and people headed toward the suburbs and American car culture roared in, downtown Lafayette fell into a disrepair abetted by city fathers’ emphasis on growing the city outward, on new development, on progress. The 1970s was a bad decade for the downtown; the focus — municipal and civic — was on the south side, which grew exponentially, gauged by the mounting clutter of billboards riding a Johnston Street skirted by subdivisions teeming with ranch-style houses. By the mid ’80s, much of the commercial space downtown was vacant, shuttered. Jefferson Street was a one-way between Lee and Cypress streets, and coming up the railroad underpass from Evangeline Thruway motorists encountered a “Do Not Enter” sign when they reached Cypress at the gateway to downtown. Do not enter, indeed.
As this week’s cover story details, another phase of StreetScape plus three and possibly four major developments will continue to transform downtown Lafayette this year into the urban oasis planners envisioned more than a decade ago. Despite the recent negative press, things are looking up downtown.
If you’re a newbie in Lafayette you might assume our venerable downtown has always been this way. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Don't forget: our annual Festival International contest begins Thursday! Win. Cool. Stuff.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
State bar foundation bestows honor on founder and managing partner of NeunerPate
This Wednesday, April 23, marks the first full day of INNOV8 Lafayette.
National awards recognize outstanding achievement in leadership development and leadership programs
A federal court magistrate has issued a seven-page schedule of hearings, conferences and deadlines leading up to January’s trial aimed at determining how much money BP will owe in Clean Water Act fines as a result of its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The state’s “greedy trial lawyers” haven’t scared this oil giant away.
Local boutique celebrates all things green
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 22, 2014:
Tender meat and crispy bread create a white-linen-worthy sandwich
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
INNOV8 Lafayette launches its weeklong festival dedicated to cultivating innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
Smaller Microsoft Store installations sell a wide array of Microsoft products (Windows phones, Surface tablets and Xbox consoles) but don’t include everything.
Dirk Powell and Cedric Watson will perform together during an intimate gig at Parish Ink, 310 Jefferson St., from 9-11:30 p.m. Wednesday.
See cutting-edge technologies Thursday in brief presentations/demonstrations from 3rd Dimension Media, C&C Technologies, Cimation and UL Lafayette School of Engineering.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Get Festival ready
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
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.