Authority taps new director

An urban design professional with a law degree and real estate experience has been tapped as the new director for the Lafayette Downtown Development Authority.

Nathan Norris, a founding principal of the planning and design group PlaceMakers, is scheduled to start the job this month, the DDA announced Thursday.

Norris replaces longtime DDA Executive Director Cathy Webre, who is retiring after more than two decades in the job.

“Nathan has a real wealth of skills that will be invaluable to us as we try to more forward and bring things to the next level ... or two,” said DDA Board Chairman Pat Trahan.

Norris said Thursday that he was attracted to the job in part because there seemed to be a strong political will to continue the development of the downtown area and a vibrant local economy to support it.

“It’s a fantastic town where there has already been a wonderful foundation laid for the downtown,” said Norris, who has been working out of Montgomery, Ala.

Local culture also enticed him.

“I came there and enjoyed the food and I was sold,” Norris said.

He takes the DDA job as a group of planners are crafting a new long-term plan for the growth and development of the downtown area.

The details of that plan are still being worked out.

Early discussions have focused on the need to push redevelopment beyond the core of downtown, to improve connections between downtown and neighborhoods that surround it, and to lure more people to take up residence in the area.

Norris said much of his experience with the PlaceMakers firm has been in working with city officials and private developers to implement the type of long-range plan now being developed for downtown Lafayette.

More than 100 applicants submitted résumés for the director’s post, and the DDA board screened 14 applicants for a closer look before selecting Norris, according to information from the DDA.

Norris is a licensed attorney and real estate broker with experience in design, event planning, educational outreach and marketing and construction, among other things, according to information from the DDA.