Funding boost provided for new Horse Farm in Lafayette

The effort to build a new city park at the 100-acre Horse Farm on Johnston Street has received a $2.6 million infusion.

The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority on Thursday pledged the $2.6 million as seed money to develop a plan for the project.

The LPTFA is a self-supporting public authority that makes money through investments and financing and uses the proceeds to support public projects.

“We are ready to hit the ground running. ... We have every resource we need but one — money,” said Lenny Lemoine, of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit group formed to oversee the development of the park.

An outreach program is tentatively set for August to gather ideas on what types of activities the public wants at the new park, said attorney Charles Landry, who is working on the project.

Lafayette Central Park has tapped the nonprofit Urban Land Institute to oversee the process of gathering public input, and a ULI committee chaired by former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy will visit Lafayette in June, Landry said.

The nonprofit park board will let community input drive the planning process, rather than the desires of individual board members, Lemoine said.

“As we interviewed board members, we made certain that people committed to that,” he said.

The design phase of the project will begin after community outreach, and construction could begin by the fall of 2014, Lemoine said.

Still uncertain is the price tag for the project.

The park is on city-owned property, but the plan calls for private donations to fund its construction and ongoing maintenance.

A rough estimate for the project put the cost at about $30.4 million — $2.6 million for planning, $13.9 million for construction and another $13.9 million for an endowment to cover long-term maintenance expenses.

The plan to develop the Horse Farm has been in the works for several years and began when former University of Louisiana at Lafayette President Ray Authement proposed to exchange some of the property with commercial developers for land closer to the school’s main campus.

Authement abandoned the controversial proposal in 2006, and Durel announced the plan in 2010 for city-parish government to buy the property from the university.

The deal was closed last year after the Lafayette City-Parish Council voted to buy the Horse Farm property for $5.8 million plus the trade of an 8-acre city park next to the school’s main campus.