At the recent Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) Annual Convention held in Monroe, municipalities from across the state joined together to learn about changes to a multitude of issues that affect them. Fiscal responsibility, programming, the offering of services, dealing with public records and their requests, and open meeting regulations are just a few of the topics discussed, and the knowledge gained is useful. But there’s one topic that sits high atop the others in the peaking of everyone’s interest – economic development. And one city shined in that area by picking up the “Best in Show” award. That city? Our very own Gonzales.
The LMA Best in Show award chooses an economic development project that benefits a community as a whole. By weighing the pros and cons of that project in terms of inception, budget, operation and expected achievement, an overall winner is picked and leads by example on upcoming projects for its own and other communities. The City of Gonzales’ winning project featured the Conway Economic Development District, “a $325 million transformative multi-use development into the City of Gonzales featuring several densities of housing, common areas, retail, professional services and commercial establishments,” and was created using many of the “smart growth concepts that the City of Gonzales adopted in its Master Plan that CPEX (Center for Planning Excellence) helped the city create and adopt in 2015.” The overall goal of The Conway Economic Development District is to bring over 1,000 new housing units into Gonzales on a 600 acre tract of land.
“We’ve been working on Conway for a very long time,” said Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux. “Many pieces of a puzzle have joined together to create something beautiful and functional. I believe The Conway Economic Development District will be of great benefit to our city, our parish, and even areas further afield.”
“The City of Gonzales has always been a forward-thinking leader on amenities that increase the quality of life for the community, “ said Ascension Economic Development Corporation CEO//President Kate MacArthur. “The development of Conway is a terrific example of how road improvements, diverse residential housing options, recreational amenities, and retail and commercial businesses embody the true concept of smart growth for not only the residents of the development, but the city as a whole.”
In creating the district, the City of Gonzales administration worked to draft rules and regulations through the Planning Commission for a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) in cooperation with the city’s chief engineer, city clerk, planning commission and public works director. A Tax Incremented Financing (TIF) district was created to aid in the funding of the development in relation to needed infrastructure. The project also directly contributed to a fund for a roundabout and additional lanes on Highway 44. This investment was to the tune of $1.3 million.
For this project, the City of Gonzales worked directly with Mr. Robert Daigle, the prestigious architect/developer of Southern Lifestyle Development, who helped created the River Ranch Development in the City of Lafayette. Once nothing more than a pipe dream, some 20 years later River Ranch is now a thriving TND, with different levels of housing and businesses forming around open green and public spaces. Based on the layout and structure of River Ranch, Conway is expected to have similar success in Ascension Parish. Conway will be a livable, workable community within a community that will offer younger residents the amenities they look for, and older residents the comforts and familiarity of home. Lakes, parks and trails will intertwine with residential and commercial property, and a central, town square type space will be utilized for a variety of functions.
“The City of Gonzales is excited about the opportunities that a development such as The Conway Economic Development District creates and have already begun using it as a model for future developments,” said Arceneaux. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts by the LMA, and we will continue to pave the way for future growth that benefits all of our citizens.”