Cameron St. targeted for revitalization

Residents and business owners near Cameron Street came together Saturday in an effort to promote revitalization of their neighborhood through a “Better Block” campaign.

“We saw the Better Block initiative that started in Texas,” said Gisele Menard, the event’s organizer and founding member of Townfolk Inc.

“The city beat us to the punch and did the first one on Bertrand,” she said. “We saw how effective it was, and we decided we needed to be the next one out the gate. We want the city to remember us. We want them to care about this place like we do.”

Townfolk Inc. is a nonprofit organization with the sole mission of revitalizing Cameron Street and its neighborhoods. Cameron Street was once a bustling hub for Lafayette, but many factors have diminished what Menard said she knows can become a vital part of the Lafayette community again.

“We’re trying to reimagine what Cameron can be,” Menard said.

She said her father bought a rent house in this neighborhood when she was a teen, and there were plans at the time for fountains and mixed-use developments.

“That project never happened, but we are trying to help some of the owners who were not caring for their properties,” Menard said. “They have seen what we have done. Just doing a paint job or putting plants up and make a landscape. It shows that somebody cares, and when your tenants see you care, then they care. It is taking off.”

Menard said Saturday’s Better Block event on Cameron was put together with a joint effort among Townfolk, the LaPlace neighborhood on Cameron Street and another nonprofit organization, People Helping People. Vendors from the area set up booths with music and food, and the community joined to take part in the revitalizing effort.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany enjoyed lunch with his family Saturday at the Better Block event and said he envisions a second downtown Lafayette on Cameron Street.

“Downtown Lafayette had gotten pretty bad for a while,” Boustany said. “Now it has become a great spot that is attracting restaurants and businesses, and I think this is the next step. This is an area that is very ripe for revitalization.”

Boustany said his daughter Ashley and her husband have a business on Cameron Street.

“Entrepreneurs are taking up shop here, and it will be a real catalyst to revitalize this whole area,” Boustany said. “It could ultimately look like downtown.”

Stephanie Cornay Dugan, owner of Awning and Supply Company on Cameron Street, said the bad rap the neighborhood gets is mostly perception. Dugan said the biggest problem the area faces is prostitution.

“I’m not going to tell you this is the only place prostitution is going on in Lafayette,” Dugan said. “The problem is that the type of prostitution we have here is akin to human trafficking.”

She said the prostitution activity is “very real and open,” involving young girls and young boys. She said the police department has taken a very active approach in the past few years to combat the problem.

Donna Troyanowski, whose husband James owns Lafayette Granite near Cameron Street, said revitalizing the neighborhood is not only crucial to her business but to her family.

“A lot of people that also care about improving the neighborhood are now our friends,” Troyanowski said. “The kind of people involved in this aren’t quitters.”

Menard said the event was a success and said future events for Cameron Street are in the works.

“Everyone came together collectively, and we have a huge group who are concerned,” Menard said. “They’ve been promised so many things, and it has never happened. In a couple months, we are taking it down to Four Corners. We want people to not forget. Cameron had a life in the past and has a life in the future.”