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.”
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
See which events are taking place during INNOV8 Lafayette this Thursday.
It’s on, y’all. Fest fIND, our annual Festival International de Louisiana reader contest, is now accepting photo submissions.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
Fashion and music make great bedfellows
Producers, manufacturers, restaurants and chefs host roundtable and tasting
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
The easy one-piece way to style
Comfy feet for long days
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Newsy bits for the whole fam
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.