If you remember when the City of Gonzales’ southern boundary was Hwy 30, the acreage in the southwest corner of its intersection with Hwy 44 has always piqued your curiosity. An open field annexed into the city along with the new I-10 exit at Hwy 44 in the mid-1970s, the land now lies in the heart of Gonzales though development focused west along Hwy 30 near its intersection with I-10. At long last, that is about to change.
Double D of Louisiana is transforming 103 underutilized acres into Heritage Crossing; blending residential, high-end retail, office space (including medical), hotel accommodations, restaurants and nightlife, a public square along the lines of Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge. It is the vision of Ronnie and Vance Daigle (the two “D’s”), local businessmen with deep roots in the community who are “investing in the future of Gonzales.”
“We view Heritage Crossing as a place where friends and neighbors will gather for a unique experience, right here at home,” said Ronnie Daigle. “We feel very fortunate to have this opportunity; the site is perfectly located at the crossroads of Highways 30 and 44.”
Essential to Heritage Crossing’s identity and success is creation of an appealing “sense of place” achieved by leveraging Gonzales’ progressive R-3-MU zoning for mixed use areas. A central square and residential spaces afford several advantages:
- Neighborhood Feel that promotes safe pedestrian activity
- Streetscape Amenities including landscaping, lighting and benches
- Distinctive Architecture/Design of buildings and open space to lend depth, texture and interest
Heritage Crossing is designed to be “a unified community that supports the full spectrum of enterprises and activities.” Medical offices are a natural fit given the proximity to Our Lady of the Lake Ascension (formerly St. Elizabeth’s) Hospital, and Double D is negotiating with a few big-box retailers that will be a hit with patrons.
“The Town Center will be the heart of Heritage Crossing, a natural gathering place for residents of Gonzales and the surrounding area,” Vance Daigle shared their vision. “It will provide a welcoming atmosphere coupled with convenience to shop, eat…to live. And without having to visit Baton Rouge.”
All augmented by built-in amenities. There will be lakefront acreage, bike paths and tree-lined walking trails, in addition to open spaces. There will even be some wooded areas.
The property has been the subject of much speculation over the years, one proposal after another going by the boards for various reasons. Changing hands several times over the decades, much of the acreage was owned by Everybody’s All-American, the legendary Billy Cannon, at one time. Tax Increment Financing deals and Interstate traffic shifted the city’s commercial focus a few miles west at the turn of the last century when Tanger Outlet Malls and Cabela’s revved up the city’s economic engine.
Along with that spectacular growth on Hwy 30 came some of the worst traffic congestion in Ascension Parish. Hwy 44, known as Burnside Avenue within the city limits, has lain relatively dormant.
That is by design, utilizing innovative elements of Gonzales’ Master Transportation Plan. Double D is building over $4 million in new road infrastructure to improve traffic flow and connectivity. The main entrance from Hwy 44 is a curb and gutter road running west the length of Heritage Crossing, abutting property owned by OLOL Ascension. The hospital is donating right-of-way to extend the road west all the way to S Darla St which connects Hwy 30 to the north.
“The layout will provide several access points to Heritage Crossing,” Vance explained. “Once commuters grow accustomed, we anticipate relief for Hwy 30 traffic along with secondary access to the hospital.”
Roads will be constructed with sidewalks, street lighting, and stylishly appointed elements of the city’s complete-street regulations, inspired by the successful Main Street program.
All while major improvements to both highways are in the works. Construction of Highway 30 roundabouts will go out for bid in 2020, while Louisiana DOTD just started an expansion of Hwy 44 with two roundabouts planned.
Evidence that the future of Gonzales lies south. In 2012 the city annexed 340 acres along Highway 44 where Conway subdivision is being constructed presently. The corridor includes River Parish Community College near an Interstate on ramp.
Heritage Crossing is a great bridge to that bright future.