Public meeting scheduled for River District

The River District, a mixed-use development on Nicholson Drive between downtown and LSU, is set to contain 1,800 residential units, a hotel and 100,000 square feet of commercial space that could possibly include a neighborhood grocery store.

Plans for the River District, a 34.8-acre development, will be formally presented at a public meeting Monday.

Steve Oubre, of Architects Southwest in Lafayette, said the River District will be on both sides of Nicholson, centered around Magnolia Mound Plantation.

“Our goal is to invigorate the corridor with a mixed-use, urban village,” Oubre said.

Residential units in River District will range from 800-square-foot apartments to townhomes that will be 2,800 to 3,200 square feet. There will be condominiums that face the Mississippi River and “colonial condos” that face Magnolia Mound, Oubre said. A public plaza will also face Magnolia Mound.

Along with the housing, there will be 100,000 square feet of commercial space. Recent market studies say there are “much more commercial uses” than Oubre originally expected, including the need for a 40,000-square-foot neighborhood grocer. Another 100,000 square feet in the development are set aside for office space, and there are plans for 220 hotel rooms.

While the developers of River District haven’t spoken with any hotel operators, Oubre said interest in the development has surfaced from restaurant operators.

Michel Moreno, a Lafayette businessman, has been working on developing River District for several years now, acquiring 45 acres of land along Nicholson. But the project was slowed because of the national recession, which reduced the demand for housing and new retail space and made financing developments difficult.

The recent development activity downtown and along Nicholson has led to increased interest in the River District.

“Just in the last two months, national developers have re-engaged with us,” Oubre said. “This wait-and-see process has come to fruition.”

The River District is ideally positioned to capitalize on the development of the Water Campus on the old municipal docks. The Water Campus, led by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, is a $45 million coastal research center that will be built by the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and operated by LSU.

“The Water Campus will have a lot of academic research and civic spaces, but no housing,” Oubre said.

Oubre said he is working with Dover, Khol & Partners, the firm planning the Water Campus, and with John Fregonese, the planner who is helping to implement the FutureBR master land-use plan.

“We want to all sit down as a team and see how to augment the Nicholson Corridor,” he said. “We have a great street connecting LSU and downtown.”

The public meeting about River District will be held at 4 p.m. Monday at the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center, 950 East Washington St.

The concept and development drawings for the River District will be submitted to the Office of the Planning Commission by Feb. 6 and the item will be heard by the commission at its March 24 meeting.

If all goes well, construction of the first housing units in the River District would begin before the end of 2014, Oubre said.