Heritage Crossing unveiled at Gonzales meeting

Heritage Crossing, the first of its kind development for the City of Gonzales, was unveiled to Mayor Barney Arceneaux and the City Council on Monday.  The “lifestyle center” drew rave reviews, not only for its forward thinking, but as actualization of Gonzales’ Comprehensive Plan for the growth inevitable as Ascension Parish continues to attract new population.

“The city’s population increase has kept pace with the parish’s and that shows no signs of slowing,” Mayor Arceneaux said after Monday’s meeting.  “You can’t hold back the tide, but you can prepare for it.  An awful lot of time and effort went into creating our master growth plan and it is wonderful to see this development implement those preparations.”

Arceneaux and the Council lauded Vance and Ronnie Daigle, the two “D’s” in DD of Louisiana, the company developing 103 of Gonzales’ most attractive acres.  The site was selected by the Council recently, following a recommendation from Gonzales’ Industrial Development Board, to house the Performing Arts, Conference & Events (PACE) Center to be funded by a 2% Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax.

“We are most impressed with the city’s vision in selecting a site that will bring additional infrastructure to Gonzales’ southern corridor with the completion of the previously planned southern connector road and a number of capacity improvements to Hwy. 30 and Burnside.  This will facilitate economic growth in an area that is primed to become the city’s next commercial center,” said Vance Daigle.

The development has drawn strong interest as a location for medical offices given its proximity and access to Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL)-Ascension (formerly St. Elizabeth’s) hospital.   Along with 161,000 square feet of retail, new job creation is anticipated to be “significant.”

Heritage Crossing came about when the Daigle brothers searched out a location for RJ Daigle & Sons’ new office.  The opportunity for Heritage Crossing presented itself as “a way to create something special for our community.”  Vance and Ronnie both view the development as “a legacy project” even while understanding there will be detractors given the palpable anti-development sentiment in Ascension Parish.

But the City of Gonzales’ best interests have seldom coincided with those of its surrounding parish.   The city is not plagued with disparate interests leading to political infighting over allocation of public dollars.  It has allowed Gonzales to build significant infrastructure, water and sewer most notably, beyond east bank Ascension’s capabilities.

Longtime City Clerk, now DD of Louisiana President, Clay Stafford’s participation in the project lends an awful lot of comfort to Gonzales decision makers and citizens alike.  It was Stafford who presented Heritage Crossing on Monday.

“At the crossroads of Hwy 30 and Hwy 44, it’s a lot of prime real estate with a lot of potential tax dollars at stake,” Stafford, whose responsibilities included preparing Gonzales’ annual budgets for 17 years, told the Council.  “Mr. (Miles) Pollard owned this property for years and resisted selling it because he wanted something special for the city.  We believe this fulfills those wishes.”

Since Hurricane Katrina the city’s population has increased by roughly 50%, nearing 11,000 residents with more on the way.

The graphic above does not include multiple developments built or being constructed just west of the city limits along Cornerview Road.  Three flagged subdivisions; Forestwood, Riverton, and Oak Lake all lie outside of Gonzales.

North Ascension Parish’s astronomical population growth has developers looking further south and Gonzales’ centralized location, bisected by I-10 and Airline Hwy, has attracted several residential subdivisions.  And with it, those retailers wishing to sell commodities who have targeted Ascension Parish with its healthy Median Household Income…

“That equates to more citizens placing greater strain on the city’s infrastructure, especially police and fire protection,” Mayor Arceneaux explained.   “We have always relied upon retail sales tax to fund those vital services and Heritage Crossing’s mixture of retail and office space is going to be a real boon to Gonzales.”

Arceneaux would go on to add that Heritage Crossing’s commitment of $4.2 million in road infrastructure fulfills a major element of Gonzales’ Master Transportation Plan.  An “Unfunded Potential Connection, Inside the City” envisioned by the plan (depicted in broken yellow line below) links Hwy 44/Burnside to S Darla St which runs south from Hwy 30…

Heritage Crossing is building that connection to the end of its property, abutting OLOL’s acreage.  The hospital has indicated a willingness to donate right-of-way for the city to finish that connector road.

“It’s all about diverting traffic from Hwy 30, onto Burnside Ave,” Clay Stafford explained “multiple points of ingress/egress” from/to Burnside.

Burnside’s I-10 on/off ramps  see comparatively little traffic alongside their Hwy 30 counterparts.  DD of Louisiana’s design stresses access to Heritage Crossing, and the PACE Center, via Burnside.  Stafford also anticipated “the new access to OLOL, especially its emergency vehicles.”

“We understand there are concerns about drainage,” he conceded.  “Ronnie and Vance made the decision to build Heritage Crossing to satisfy more stringent drainage regulations being contemplated by the parish.”

East Ascension Drainage Board has jurisdiction over all major drainage issues, even within Gonzales and the other east bank incorporated municipality, Sorrento.  The Board is comprised of ten east bank parish council members who execute annual Cooperative Endeavor Agreements with Ascension Parish Government which executes the Board’s will.  The Parish Council is considering those more  stringent drainage regulations at present.