Solely secured by “the revenues derived…by the City from the 2018 Hotel Occupancy Tax,” Gonzales’ Council resolved to issue $4,500,000 million in bonds toward construction of its highly-anticipated Performing Arts, Conference & Events (PACE) Center. Lost in the hullabaloo of a chaotic agenda on Monday, it was the most consequential piece of business taken up by the five-member panel. PACE Center is “a core anchor” of Heritage Crossing, a mixed-use development which could open a vital new commercial corridor for the city.
PACE Center will be the first of its kind in Ascension, and a source of pride for city residents who have gotten their money’s worth out of the cavernous Civic Center.
Which is not to dis the venerable building across Irma Blvd from City Hall, site of many happy memories for Gonzales residents of a not-so-recent vintage (who remembers Friday nights with Pegasus screeching from the amps? Good times.)
Life goes on.
“PACE Center will be a tremendous asset to enhance the quality of life for citizens throughout the region,” said Mayor Barney Arceneaux last year, ticking off a list of potential events. “We expect to have concerts, plays, dance performances, pageants, symphonies, choirs, training seminars, industry meetings and trade shows; even weddings and family events hosted at this new centerpiece of our community.”
Projected to cost $10 million, the Hotel Occupancy Tax-secured bond is, while a major funding source, not the only one. Assuming approval by Louisiana’s Bond Commission, $4.5 million at 6% interest will get construction funding almost half-way there. The other sources:
- Accumulated Hotel Tax-$1 million
- Capital Oulay-$1.5 million
- Tanger Economic Development District-$1.5 million
- LeBlanc Family Trust-$1.5 million
The tax initiative, approved by Gonzales voters on December 8, 2108, anticipates annual revenue generation of $500,000. Those funds are “dedicated…(to) financing, construction, maintenance and operation” of PACE Center, a prestige project for the city, but so much more.
A key component of Heritage Crossing at the confluence of Hwy 30 and Hwy 44 (Burnside), PACE Center was approved with the goal of accessing Hwy 44’s untapped commercial potential. There was a time when Hwy 44 was viewed as the most likely economic engine for Gonzales. In the mid-1970s the final piece of Interstate 10 opened from Airline Hwy (in Sorrento) to Hwy 30, convincing decision-makers to transform Burnside into a boulevard to access the interstate on/off ramps.
For a variety of reasons, it never materialized as Hwy 30 became the focal point of commercial investment theretofore unseen in the Jambalaya Capital of World. Cabela’s 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.
Gonzales relies so heavily upon sales tax revenue to fund any number of services not available to residents of Ascension Parish, writ large, keeping pace with ever growing demand for those services requires investment. Hwy 30, with Tanger Outlet Mall and Cabela’s Parkway, a smattering of hotels and eateries, is one of those corridors (Airline Hwy is the other) generating sales tax revenue that pays for:
- Law enforcement
- Fire protection/EMS Services
- Sewer treatment
- Recreation programs
- Twice a week garbage collection (including white goods and recycling)
The list goes on. All those services cost more and more, a product of increased cost-of-living and the fact that Gonzales’ population is increasing every bit as fast as the rest of east bank Ascension. Two economic engines humming at near capacity, how much more can Hwy 30 and Airline Hwy generate?
Heritage Crossing is key to unlock Burnside’s economic potential.
Owned by locals Ronnie and Vance Daigle, with longtime Gonzales City Clerk Clay Stafford on point, DD of Louisiana is developing Heritage Crossing as “a legacy” project. Stafford explained:
“Every member of our ownership team is from Gonzales and we view Heritage Crossing as a ‘legacy project;’ the project for which we want to be remembered by our friends and neighbors. The PACE Center is integral to our vision.”
And it is integral to the city’s vision of the future which lies south, down 44/Burnside toward Conway Subdivision. Just north of Conway is Edenborne Parkway, another site of Gonzales’ unrealized commercial aspirations where lofty expectations have yet to materialize after River Parishes Community College moved there some years back. Underutilized, Edenborne Parkway extension links Lamar Dixon Expo Center to Hwy 44 which could, if more motorists used it, divert traffic from Hwy 30.