DDA: All or Nothing for Lakefront plan

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Lake Charles Downtown Development Authority recommended moving forward with the Cypress Group's latest mixed used development plan for the lakefront, but not without expressing concerns.

The full plan which will be constructed on the piece of land south of the Civic Center will have 300 residential units, commercial space and a parking garage. While the their concept to develop this portion of the lakefront hasn't changed, the Cypress Group's approach has.

"I'm laying it all out there. I'm kind of giving you the worst case scenario," said Chris Rinaudo with the Cypress Group.

Based on the economic climate, Rinaudo proposes doing the project in three phases over the course of five years. Phase one includes a four story 150 unit apartment complex with approximately 54-thousand square feet of shops and restaurants on the bottom floor. Phase two and Phase three would bring a parking garage -camouflaged by an additional 50 apartments.

"I want to do a parking garage, because it adds value to my development, but can the market support it? It's hard to make a parking garage work," explained Rinaudo.

Rinaudo says he'll be spending some 50-thousand dollars on market studies and doesn't want the garage to be a deal breaker and explains Phase one is his back up plan.

"I argue that the 50-thousand square feet of commercial space and the 150 units is a step forward and it brings energy and life and takes a bite at the apple of redeveloping the lakefront," said Rinaudo.

This version is a much different vision than the one that won them over. "Perhaps a realization that the original proposal offered might have been done and certainly was done before all the facts were in," said DDA President Adley Cormier.

Rinaudo says the bare minimum alone would generate 200-thousand dollars for the City of Lake Charles, which could be put forth to help build the parking garage. He also suggests the city consider a tax increment financing (TIF) or a tax abatement plan to be put before the voters. Bottom line the DDA wasn't buying it.

"I don't think the citizens of Lake Charles would want us just to do something because it will generate buzz. We have a buzz when the promenade and marina open," said Rick Richard, DDA member.

"Apartments and the garage - it has to be a package from the beginning," said GiGi Kaufman, DDA member.

In their recommendation, the DDA voted to move forward with the entire project as originally presented - with the agreement to work with Cypress Group on creative ways to finance the parking garage.

The DDA's recommendation now goes before the Lake Charles City Council for final action at their regular meeting on August 4th.

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