Reported by: Britney Glaser
The Sears building in downtown Lake Charles has been vacant for a decade, becoming an eyesore to a developing downtown area. Tuesday afternoon, city officials began receiving bids on the vacant Sears Automotive building, that will soon be turned into a transit facility.
Business owners in downtown Lake Charles say this area is the best kept secret in town. Gigi Kaufman is a business owner in the downtown area. She says, "Downtown has charm and activity. Once you get people back downtown, they love it."
Over the years, the downtown area has lost businesses and people, taking a hit on the economic development of this area. But the city's push to wake up downtown Lake Charles is impacting local businesses and changing the face of this area. Downtown business owner, Blane Bourgeois says, "It's definitely changed. It's a lot slower than I would hope it would be, but it actually has changed. You get relativity from people who haven't been down here in long periods of time and they see a bit more change than I do."
One place that hasn't changed since 1998 is the Sears property. While there are plans to turn the original retail area into an $18 million hotel, it's been a slow process with paperwork. On the other side of the street, though, plans to demolish the old Sears Automotive building are finally coming to fruition. City of Lake Charles Director of Public Works, Mister Edwards says, "There will be enough room there to house eight buses and it will also encompass a park for the residents that live there, for the business owners to come and enjoy. We tried to make it fit into the whole downtown flavor."
The multi-modal transit facility will allow people who take public transportation a chance to sit inside, rather than at outdoor stops. There will also be city employees on hand to answer questions and take complaints if issues arise.
The people who work near this old building are ready to see a major makeover. Kaufman says, "The architectural designs are very, very nice. It will be a very nice building."
Edwards says the location of this property was key in making a decision to build the transit facility. "This is one of the locations where we felt there could be some benefit to that area," says Edwards, "There will be some new growth, it's public money being spent in that area to help revitalize the downtown area."