LAFAYETTE — During the next few days, people who live and work near downtown Lafayette in an area known as the Mills Addition will have a voice in shaping the development of about 3 acres in their neighborhood.
The property, formerly owned by the nonprofit group Acadiana Outreach Center, was purchased in January by the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, which commissioned Architects Southwest to develop a master plan for its development.
Steve Oubre of Architects Southwest led an introductory session Monday with about 30 people in attendance.
“We want to have your input. ... The challenge for us here is to decide how can we change where we are?” Oubre said.
The neighborhood has an opportunity to improve the community’s quality of life while also increasing property values, he said.
Oubre outlined development and demographic trends that show demand for apartment or condo-living in “walkable” communities from not only retirees, but also young professionals, who also would prefer to rent rather than embrace the added responsibilities of home ownership.
Hallmarks of “healthy communities” are “walkability”, a mixed use of housing types and price points, greenspace or parks and a strong economy, Oubre said.
The neighborhood, also known as “LaPlace,” has its own association or coterie that presented Oubre with a “wish list” that included a grocery, urban gardens, small parks, nicer sidewalks and restaurants.
“The idea of a grocer is critical to serving the needs of the neighborhood,” Oubre said, but the population density in the neighborhood is too low to attract a grocery store.
Designers will go into more detail about planning ideas with residents and other groups during workshops planned Tuesday and Wednesday, Oubre said.
Sessions specific to residents are scheduled at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. All sessions will be held at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center.
The property to be developed includes areas on Second, Monroe and South Buchanan streets that formerly housed Acadiana Outreach Center’s operations. The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority purchased nine properties for $1.13 million.
The purchase included the nonprofit group’s stake in an affordable apartment housing complex that will open in November in the neighborhood. The Financing Authority also plans to create artist lofts in the neighborhood. The master plan will help shape the development of nearby properties.
The Financing Authority wanted to engage the public in the planning process to get residents’ feedback about future development, Chairman John Arceneaux said.
“These are major changes for their neighborhood,” Arceneaux said. “We think they probably have some good ideas of what they’d like to see done.”
Gisele Menard, chairwoman of the LaPlace coterie, said Monday that she would like to see her late father’s vision for the neighborhood realized. Menard’s father, Albert C. Sonnier Jr., was Lafayette’s planning director in the 1970s through mid-’80s.
“He would always talk about his vision of fountains and walkability,” Menard said. “My goal is not just see my dad’s dream come true but to create a place for Lafayette to be proud of again.”