McNeese student weighs in on downtown development

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - As the city looks to grow downtown Lake Charles, thousands of dollars in studies have been spent on how to make it work with what we have.

The Downtown Development Authority was schooled Monday night by a McNeese student who said we may need to look to our past when moving toward the future.

A few people may remember downtown Lake Charles was quite the buzz on the day Muller's Department Store debuted new TV sets. It's the type of crowd the City of Lake Charles would like to see in downtown today.

"Residents are viewing downtown as a big empty parking lot and that is not the image we want to project," said Breana Carrier, McNeese Marketing Senior.

While interning a Empire of the Seed Carrier recently did a study comparing a 1948 map of downtown Lake Charles to today. The map is color coded with orange representing parking lots, green historical sites and yellow newer buildings built over the time.

"I wanted to know what each building originally was. I saw that it said one name but it wouldn't tell me if it was a store or a restaurant or anything," recalled Carrier.

After searching through the McNeese archives Carrier hit the streets and discovered Lake Charles 1948 was a pretty happening place.

"The thing that surprised me the most was the original use of these buildings. The Social Security Office was once a hotel. Of course the bank, was Calcasieu Marine Bank. And the Charleston was just so many things more than just a hotel. We had so many things, people coming here but today it's just a reflection of what it used to be," explained Carrier.

While Lake Charles is on a roll with the Ryan Streetscape, which hopes to encourage more walkability. Meanwhile Carrier believes if people are going to stay downtown businesses may need to rethink their hours of operation.

"During my study I noticed a lot of stores closed at 3 o'clock, 4 o'clock - some don't even open up until the afternoon. Hardly anyone is open on Sunday but if you go anywhere else in town everyone is open seven days a week - a normal eight hour business day," said Carrier.

While she also expects more businesses will likely come, Carrier said there needs to be more community driven events to lure people back to downtown.

"When you have events people are drawn downtown. Also it gives area businesses the opportunity to come out of their buildings and set up in the parking lot to encourage people to stop that might not otherwise," said Carrier. "I think it's the right time, it's been a long time coming, but now is better than ever."

"The idea that she brought forth tonight we think really would help the City and downtown area and bring people downtown and grow the area," said Jonald Walker, Lake Charles Downtown Development Chairman.

Meanwhile work continues on the Ryan Streetscape project. Crews expect to reopen the Division Street intersection within the next two weeks and continue on to Mill Street. Crews will then hop up towards Ryan at Clarence and finish up the portion near the new Transit Center before finishing the last leg of the project from Mill to Pine Street after the first of the year.

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