There is an undercurrent of class envy in some quarters toward developments like River Ranch. And, indeed, most of the real estate in the traditional neighborhood development is beyond the means of the middle class. But the principles of smart growth applied there — a marriage of commercial, retail and residential space in tight quarters — is key to Lafayette’s future, and to reversing the inner-city decay and suburban sprawl that crept in like mold over the last four decades. From a wider perspective, smart growth, known more grandiosely as New Urbanism, is a prime component in de-stressing our environment and reducing our dependency on foreign oil — on any oil, in fact. Who needs a car when you can walk to work, to a restaurant, to a market, health club or theater?
“It’s a pretty holistic approach to looking at how we live and work and play,” says architect Steve Oubre, whose imprint is etched onto enclaves such as River Ranch, Sugar Mill Pond and — coming in the future to Guilbeau Road — Cafferytown. “It’s very different from a suburban approach where everything is disconnected one from the other — this is a much more connected kind of concept.”
Tightly packed housing, sidewalks, green spaces and public squares clustered around commerce — restaurants, retail, medical and business — is the polar opposite of suburban sprawl and at the core of New Urbanism. It promotes walking and interaction among neighbors. And from an environmental perspective, it reduces dependency on cars, fossil fuels and their attendant pollution. “The basics of what we’re doing is trying to create compact, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use districts that allow people to conduct their daily businesses as much as possible within one area without absolutely having to engage the automobile.”
The blueprint for New Urbanism — mid 20th century small town America — isn’t new. As a school of thought it was a sort of happy accident that grew out of the development three decades ago of Seaside, Fla., which became the idyllic backdrop for the 1998 Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show. In seeking to recreate the era of Mayberry — to recapture that sense of community paved over by sprawl and run over by the automobile — Seaside’s developers realized the sustainability of such communities. And Lafayette’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods are primed for a reintroduction of these smart growth principles. “When you look at the town center, Jefferson Street, the old Freetown for instance,” says Oubre, “these are wonderful examples of early mid-century pedestrian-friendly kinds of places. And there’s a movement now within the city to rebuild those areas.”
Couple that with an upcoming announcement — within the next few weeks, according to Oubre — about an ambitious smarth-growth application to property in the center of town owned by UL, including the university research park and the Horse Farm, and a new and improved Lafayette begins to take shape.
The alternative to rebuilding existing infrastructure and emphasizing density and mixed use is more sprawl, more traffic and less “community” within our community. “The future of our region,” says Oubre, “will be in our ability to focus our growth on infrastructure that already exists as opposed to expending whatever tax dollars we have available on building further and further out. And the hidden costs, which we have not actually understood for a long time, are the costs created with providing those services after those things are built — fire, police, busing, you name it, utilities, it goes on and on; not to mention the loss of some wonderful rural property that as a culture we’re so much about.”
At a recent fundraiser held not far from the banks of Capitol Lake, Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, spent more time eyeing the water body than the influencers at the party.
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:
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, April 21, 2014:
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
C & C Technologies, HIT Fitness, R3 Sciences, the Acadiana Symphony Association and the United Way of Acadiana recognized for innovation.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra has decided to end its traditional Independence Day spectacular known as Red White & Boom.
Under the deal, Teche shareholders would get 1.162 shares of IberiaBank for each share of Teche stock.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The must have pieces this season
Dave Perkins, LCG Comp Plan honored along with local architects and designers at the 2014 INDesign Awards
Greg Manuel’s Lafayette-based residential development company is taking advantage of exponential industrial growth in Lake Charles.
Longtime Lafayette retailer ventures online.
It’s not how aggressive or conservative you are — it’s planning for risk that matters most.
Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.
Regional bank bids farewell to Downtown May 30
ABiz takes a look back at the most noteworthy moments for the local banking industry over the last year.
Most experts say short-term interest rates will be unchanged through 2014, but long-term rates are inching up.
Largest recruitment event in Acadiana returns May 21 to the Cajundome Convention Center
A lawyer’s ad should only be a starting point, as there is much more to consider when seeking quality representation.
Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.
The annual juried competition recognizes excellence in architecture, interior design and historic preservation in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.