Board recommends Heritage Crossing as site of PACE Center

On Friday Gonzales’ Industrial Development Board recommended DD of Louisiana’s Heritage Crossing, the mixed-use development planned at the intersection of Highways 30 and 44, as the site for the city’s Performing Arts, Conference & Events (PACE) Center.  DD of Louisiana’s proposal received a score of 457 (out of a possible 500) from the five-member board, a 91.4 average.  The final decision is left to Gonzales’ City Council which will take up the issue on Monday.

Gonzales will issue bonds to fund construction of the conference center, those bonds secured by revenues from the 2% Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax adopted by the city’s electorate on December 8.

Carlisle Resorts (414/82.8 average) and Tower Capital Holdings (373/74.6 average) proposed locating the center west of I-10 in a commercial corridor least accessible to the citizens of Gonzales, none of whom reside there.

Clay Stafford

Local contractors Ronnie and Vance Daigle are the “D’s” in DD of Louisiana but it was Clay Stafford, recently retired after 16 years as Gonzales’ City Clerk, who presented Heritage Crossing’s proposal.  Among its virtues:

  • DD of Louisiana’s $4.2 million investment in road infrastructure intended to divert traffic from Hwy 30 onto the less-traveled Hwy 44;
  • Accessibility for citizens and visitors alike (Heritage Crossing’s multiple ingress/egress points are less than a mile from two I-10 off ramps);
  • The cost of all utilities will be borne by DD of Louisiana;
  • Locating PACE in Heritage Crossing will foster economic development in south Gonzales.

Heritage Crossing (rendering)

“Getting people to Hwy 44,” Stafford pointed out a goal of the city’s ever since the four-lane boulevard south of Hwy 30 was built decades ago.

For whatever reason, that never materialized as Hwy 30 became the focal point of commercial investment theretofore unseen in the Jambalaya Capital of World.  Cabela’s, which partnered with Carlisle Resorts’ second-place proposal, and Tanger Outlet Center came pursuant to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreements over a decade ago; expansion of the petrochemical industry west of Gonzales on the Mississippi River is the other daily traffic generator on Hwy 30.  Hotel/motels, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, etc. all followed that traffic.

David Fakouri, representing Tower Capital conceded that his site…

Tower Capital Holdings’ site (see top-left corner)

was less desirable than Carlisle Resorts/Cabela’s; warning of “a lot of upset innkeepers if” one of their proposals was not recommended.

Carlisle Resorts/Cabela’s site

“(PACE Center) needs to be in Sportman’s Park,” insisted Fakouri.

Is that what they call the acreage around Cabela’s Parkway?  Who knew (other than those innkeepers of such concern)?

The Board did not agree.

Fakouri and Brent Rhodes (on behalf of Carlisle Resorts/Cabela’s) protested the decision.  Ignoring the January 25 Request for Proposal’s preference for five acres where a corresponding hotel might be located to serve the PACE Center.  Instead they focused on the “shovel-readiness” of the respective proposals because neither included acreage for that hotel.

Both Fakouri and Rhodes…

Rhodes (at the dais) as Fakouri listens in.

mischaracterized terms of the RFP, arguing that shovel-readiness was a requirement.  It was not, though the scoring included “0-20” points for:

  • accessibility, availability of related infrastructure-roads, water, sewer, electric, gas to be brought to site by respondent and the price should reflect this obligation.  If these amenities are not already present, a reasonable timeline should be provided for when they will be completed.
  • how “shovel ready” the site is for construction (pad ready, no environmental concerns, clear title, etc.

“Overall ability to meet the city’s needs” counted for up to 30 points on the RFP’s scorecard, specifying the “seller’s willingness to set aside adjoining acreage…to accommodate the siting of an adjoining full service hotel.”  DD of Louisiana’s plans include… PACE Center the centerpiece of Heritage Crossing was applauded by multiple of the Board members during the Open Discussion agenda item.

PACE Center and proposed acreage for hotel in DD of Louisiana’s proposal

It intends for PACE Center to be the centerpiece of Heritage Crossing, an idea applauded by multiple of the Board members.