Downtown Opelousas Improvements, Development District Plans Outlined
Areas in central Opelousas may soon look different as members of the city’s Downtown Development District consider long-term infrastructure improvements and create economic change.
The Development District, an appointed seven-member council created several years ago by state lawmakers to raise sales tax funding in Opelousas’ restricted business areas, oversees several ongoing projects including visibility will become evident in the coming months, said President Lena Charles. the week.
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Charles listed several such initiatives orchestrated by district planning as she addressed a monthly meeting of the Opelousas Board of Aldermen.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes on a number of things that will make a difference in the downtown core to do something about it,” Charles said.
According to Charles, the district has been looking at ways to address issues of vacant buildings and run-down properties, which have hurt the city’s ability to develop a viable commercial district near the St. Landry Parish Courthouse.
The district is also seeking grants to help city officials clean up downtown and reduce litter, as well as several street projects to help enhance downtown areas.
Charles said commercial development in Opelousas should soon receive an infusion on the east side of town along the Interstate 49 service route.
One of the main economic concerns is a vacant hotel in downtown Opelousas, previously listed by Charles as essential to the city’s economic growth. It was not discussed during its presentation at the meeting of the College of Aldermen.
Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor recently told the board that city officials were reviewing economic proposals for the three-story building, but none of the business models he considered had been accepted.
Charles said the plans being finalized by the development district reflect ideas outlined in the district’s master plan, a 135-page document and roadmap for economic growth and development that was created after two years. public input.
In 2021, when the master plan was adopted by the Board of Aldermen, Charles said the information gathered for the plan would be used to create a new vision for the future development and design of the city.
“What we are doing with the plans we have now for Opelousas coincides with the ideas that are in the master plan,” Charles said. “You’re going to see important companies that are interested and will help put Opelousas on the map.”
What is happening economically?
Charles said the extensive clearing operation that has been going on for the past few months at the intersection of U.S. Highway 190 and I-49 inside the city is primarily for a Billy’s Boudin store and perhaps to another fast food restaurant that has not yet committed to location on the property.
Although the Billy’s Boudin project on the east side of the 190 is progressing as planned, Charles said the development of a Chick-fil-A restaurant across the freeway has been deterred by logistical issues.
The main locations of Billy’s Boudin stores are in the parishes of Saint-Landry and Lafayette.
“We have been working with the (Department of Transportation) to determine how vehicles will be able to enter and exit traffic at the corner where the restaurant is offered,” Charles said.
Charles said a turn lane from 190 on the proposed Chick-fil-A property is being proposed to facilitate the proper flow of customer traffic, but that proposal is still under discussion.
Whataburger, another national fast-food chain, entered tentative negotiations with city officials and the DDD on locating a restaurant in Opelousas, but nothing substantial developed in discussions with city executives. the company, added Charles.
“Our talks (for Whataburger) are always kind of a table thing,” Charles said.
Whataburger is headquartered in San Antonio. Chick-fil-A’s offices are located in Atlanta.
Clean up the city’s garbage
Charles pointed out that the district is formulating a city cleanup plan funded by a Louisiana Beautiful Grant.
“The grant we are getting is only a small amount, but I think what we do with it will be a catalyst to start progress on making the city more beautiful and working in conjunction with other grants,” said Charles said.
Alsandor has complained to the board in recent years about equipment left curbside and items that have been placed in the city’s sewer system causing problems.
Beautification of the courthouse
Charles said the district is seeking additional grants to fund a project that will create a courthouse sign.
“The courthouse is the centerpiece of downtown at the intersection of Market and Court streets. We want to showcase the courthouse as part of the master plan and provide guides and maps that will be used for the downtown area,” Charles said.
“Our city needs help dealing with all the vacant buildings and destroyed properties,” Charles said. “What we envision is working with the city to create ordinances that will address the issue.”
Charles said vacant buildings primarily owned by an absentee homeowner couple should be reviewed for structural stability.
“It’s something we have to look at. It’s time for us to move forward. We have to change the way we do things,” Charles said.
Alsandor has on several occasions during the four years of his first term as mayor, indicated that city officials have spoken with family members of downtown landlords about what can be done with vacant buildings in the center. -town.