A Successful Downtown – Lafayette Downtown Action Plan
This is a good example of:Create a focused, actionable plan for an inviting, competitive downtown
Through a community wide appraisal, Lafayette Louisiana reaffirmed its strengths and looked to future challenges. In order to attract and keep talent, the town found it needed to add quality housing, connections, and enhance the unique value proposition offered by downtown: convenience, vibrancy and outdoor living rooms.
Lafayette Louisiana is located in the heart of the Acadiana region. The Downtown Lafayette Action Plan (still in draft form) updates and complements existing documents to guide growth and spending. The Downtown Lafayette Action Plan starts with “big picture vision” and progresses to details:
Downtown Lafayette Vision (page 5): “The intent of the Downtown Action Plan is to provide residents of the Acadiana region the option of high-quality city living. This means continuing the transformation of the downtown into the most convenient, vibrant, eclectic and charming urban center in the region. The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
The Imperative for Action (page 6): Competition for Talent – Attracting and retaining a talented workforce is necessary for us (Lafayette) to effectively compete as a regional economy. Due to the hyper-mobility of workers in the 21st century and a corresponding understanding of this fact within the economic development community, the battle for talent is becoming increasingly competitive.
The Analysis (pages 6 & 7):
Strengths: 1) Rich and unique cultural centered around food, music, and people, 2) Can-do entrepreneurial spirit, 3) Pleasant climate, 4) Robust energy sector, 5) U Louisiana, 6) growing health care sector, & 7) Connection to regional roadways and Gulf of Mexico
Future Advantages within local control: 1) Improving public education & 2) Providing high-quality city living
Weakness: Lack of high quality in-town housing.
The Five Tools (pages 11-26):
Tool #1 Downtown Character Program: Improve amenities only found in downtown with a focus on Convenience, Vibrancy & Outdoor Rooms. Specific tools include an updated zoning code and a Rail Line Quiet Zones.
Tool #2 Public Space Initiative: This initiative has 11 elements:
- Streetscape Renovations for Internal Streets: pedestrian & bicycle paths, entrances, and a transit loop.
- Public Space Expansion & Improvements: Activate existing parks and create new parks.
- New Public Spaces: Identify areas for small parks & playgrounds.
- Outdoor dining: Convert some planted areas & parking spaces for outdoor dining.
- “Creativity Everywhere” & Public Art.
- Conversion of Suburban Arterials: Improve the look, function and connections for streets feeding into downtown.
- Gateways and Signage Improvements: Improve signage & wayfinding.
- Connections: Redevelop properties fronting key intersections & reconfigure certain streets and sidewalks.
- Cycling Mobility: Lower auto speeds along certain streets & adopt Complete Street elements.
- The Interface between downtown & I-49: Redesign for a slower, more compact transition from highway to downtown.
- Transit Mobility: Provide a transit loop, improve the comfort of bus stops and work with the University of Louisiana to connect school/town transit.
Tool #3 Development & Design Center: Lafayette established the Downtown Design Center (DDC) in 2013. The DDC will continue is five main tasks:
- Help promote and facilitate downtown development,
- Act as a concierge obtaining approvals for development proposals that support the downtown plan,
- Mediate any conflict among residents, businesses, visitors and developers,
- Provide research and design concepts, and
- Implement the downtown plan, including five small focus areas within the downtown that call for specialized sets of investments and design.
Tool #4 Parking Infrastructure & Management: Retool parking away from an element of individual buildings towards a utility service model that lowers costs and introduces efficiency for the entire group (in this case buildings and parks downtown). The reforms can include new parking infrastructure and management, including the use of new technology to match parking demand, parking supply and pricing.
Tool #5 Return on Infrastructure Investment Analysis Tool: Traditionally, municipal budgets look only at capital costs and funding streams for infrastructure (mainly roads, but also water and sewer). Fiscal analysts concerned about the health of local economies are now looking at infrastructure “return on investment” for taxpayers and whether the infrastructure serves a portfolio of development/redevelopment that returns property taxes commensurate with the public investment.