News + Notes

Downtown is running out of sewer capacity

Not long after the city received and released ideas for the Old Federal Courthouse from five interested developers, it surfaces that Downtown may not have the sewer capacity to serve their ambitions.

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Closing UHC will open up a world of hurt on Lafayette’s economy

If Lafayette loses UHC, our community will be sicker, poorer, weaker, and less able to dig our way out of the $10 billion economic hole we find ourselves in now.

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In defense of well-funded libraries

Critics have taken aim at the library’s reserves. But, as local governments look to stabilize budgets in times of economic flux, fund balances are key to long-term planning.

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Cashing in on blockchain

The mayor’s cryptocurrency cash grab took the lead in local day-after headlines, but it may be worth paying more attention to his interest in blockchain

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Mixed Use

The Old Federal Courthouse in Downtown has languished unoccupied for about 10 years now. Last year, a team of consultants advised the city to do something with the property, warning that it had become a “monument of indecision” — words now stenciled in polite graffiti on the courthouse door. Now, five groups have thrown their hats into the ring to redevelop it, responding to the city’s call for credentials. The projects and players range in ambition and notoriety. One idea would add 135 new residences to the district. Below are the responses and some overviews. 

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  • JCH Properties and KCT Real Estate Ventures, both of New Orleans, lead a team of five well-established regional names in the architecture and development space, including Lafayette’s own Architects Southwest. Curiously, the response suggests creating a special taxing district, with a 2 percent sales tax and a hotel tax, to fund Downtown projects. Theoretically, the Downtown Development Authority already plays that role.
  • Wisznia, SO Architects, Lemoine Company pitch two linked projects: The Federal House and The Federal Market. It’s an adaptive reuse project with mixed-income living and a big residential footprint (135 units in total). A hook in their proposal is a culinary arts incubator.
  • Place de Lafayette, Dyke Nelson Architecture brings to bear familiar Downtown developers, including the team behind the Tribune Printing Press redevelopment that houses French Press and Hub City Cycles. Their concept delivers 68 residential units in three buildings using some of the existing structures on the site.
  • HRI Properties is the only entrant without a local partner. The New Orleans-based developer and contractor has extensive hotel construction experience with Hyatt. Its vision includes the construction of a community theater that would house a relocated Cite des Arts, 40 apartments and a culinary institute.
  • Community Foundation of Acadiana admits that it is “not readily capable of assuming a project of this magnitude” in its response, but nevertheless enters the fray. Indeed, CFA has no relevant experience, although other community foundations (see Baton Rouge Area Foundation) have done a lot in the revitalization space. CFA’s entry is vague beyond the suggestion that it would target building mixed-use development.

While this is the most concrete movement we’ve seen on the Old Federal Courthouse in some time, it’s far from a done deal that redevelopment will go through. The “courthouse gang” that has lobbied for a new parish courthouse at this site still holds tremendous political sway. The City-Parish Council needs to vote to sell the property, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that the move would pass. That would require some lobbying from the mayor, who didn’t mention the project during the Robideaux Report and has other matters requiring political capital.

Downtown is short on available sewer capacity. That could limit the scale of residential development in the district without significant upgrades​.

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Lafayette’s $10 billion economic problem

Lafayette needs to replace $10 billion in local GDP in the next five years or risk losing an entire generation of thinkers and doers.

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Marshal Pope’s defense strategy in jeopardy

A U.S. district court ruling could ultimately hamper a key legal strategy in Marshal Brian Pope’s pending criminal trial.

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When the storm comes

Another flood is coming. The timing is uncertain, but the trends that produced the 2016 flood continue unabated.

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Lafayette General Health warns that it will stop running UHC unless the Legislature fully restores funding to the hospital

The gist

LGH President David Callecod issued a stern warning to Gov. John Bel Edwards( that if the Legislature can’t find money to fund Lafayette’s University Hospital & Clinics, which LGH runs on the state’s behalf, then LGH would be forced to stop operating the training hospital and its urgent care clinic. Callecod put a June 30, 2018, deadline, the end of an “anticipated” special session, before LGH would vacate UHC and fire its 800 employees. LGH would also demand a refund of the “unused portion” of its near $16 million in prepaid rent for this year.

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Some background

LGH took over operations of UHC in 2013. Previously, LSU’s medical school had run the hospital as a teaching facility. Under LGH’s management, the hospital still serves as a training ground for the state’s medical residents and as an essential source of care for Lafayette’s disadvantaged. The urgent care clinic at UHC, which LGH opened after assuming control, takes Medicaid payments. It’s one of the only clinics in town that does that. Callecod’s letter notes that the facility served 54,000 patients last year, many of them poor and uninsured.

The takeaway

Callecod signaled this move last month( Gov. Edwards’ proposed budget, announced at the beginning of this year, cut $650 million in state health funding, precipitating this confrontation. While it may not be surprising, it nevertheless shows just how bad things have gotten around the state’s budget deadlock. Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics reports that Callecod’s threat is not empty rhetoric. Should LGH follow through, the economic and social impact would be tremendous.

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Lafayette has a river. Why no river walk?

Lafayette doesn’t have a riverwalk like San Antonio or Chattanooga, or lots of other cities for that matter. Why, exactly, is that the case?

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Shelter from the storm

Councilwoman Liz Webb Hebert is launching a public-private partnership, called “Adopt A Stop” to speed the process of covering the city’s bus stops.

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What the self-storage boom says about us and the things we won’t let go.

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