April 12, 2013 09:06 PM

Ambassador South has not taken off quite as fast as some expected, but there is more to this corridor than meets the eye.

Ambassador South has not taken off quite as fast as some expected, but there is more to this corridor than meets the eye.

The Ambassador Caffery extension from Verot School Road to Highway 90 has been the source of much speculation since it opened for traffic in 2010. Pundits' opinions of the roadway have varied over the road's short lifespan. Much of the road is not served by municipal utilities, and driveway permits are tough to obtain. But the traffic and activity along the corridor cannot be ignored. In addition to being a major connector artery from South Lafayette to Hwy. 90, Ambassador South is quickly becoming a viable commercial corridor in its own right.

Photo by Robin May
A state requirement to add deceleration lanes and turning lanes on Ambassador
Caffery South is a costly consideration for property and business owners.
Broussard believed in the project strongly enough to pony up $10 million of its money to fund a portion of the road to promote economic development within its boundaries. The payoff on this investment appears to be imminent - and may have occurred much quicker were it not stifled by the state Department of Transportation and Development and the agency's rigid enforcement of a regulation that is relatively new and historically not strictly enforced.

The regulation requires that deceleration and turning lanes be constructed for most driveway access points onto the state road. The litmus test is a combination of speed limit at the driveway point and hourly traffic count for the business attempting to access the road. Most retail uses and many office/commercial uses will be required to build the deceleration lanes, which cost $100,000-plus each. Property and business owners have scrambled to assess how to deal with this added cost of development.

In spite of the challenges posed, there is tremendous activity along the corridor. Aside from Stine's Home Improvement Center, retail development to date has been limited to convenience store "anchored" development. To no one's surprise, the new Racetrac at Verot School Road is a bustling business. Two other convenience stores have opened at the Bonin Road and Youngsville Highway intersections, both of which also have additional small shop retail space leased to other businesses. In the planning phases, another convenience store is slated to begin construction at the future Bernard Road connection, and a small strip center is planned mid-block southeast of Chemin Metairie Road.

In the office sector, under construction are AHS Walk-In Clinic at the Bonin Road intersection and pediatrician Kelli Cocke's office between Stine's and Morgan Street. Several other medical/office users are in the planning phases.

Not to be ignored in this discussion is the new connector under way at Ambassador and Hwy. 90/Interstate 49. The state is upgrading that intersection from a signalized intersection to an interstate grade interchange with frontage roads to meet I-49 access criteria. This will be a game changer. Expect to see significant big box retail development at this interchange. As these developments unfold, the trickle down effect along Ambassador will also be significant with the City of Broussard ground zero at this point.

Looking back three years, I think the progress along the Ambassador South corridor is remarkable, a growth pattern I refer to as "iceberg development." It is commonly said that more than 80 percent of an iceberg is below the surface of the water. Like an iceberg, I believe that what you see today along Ambassador is a small piece of what actually is being planned for development.

Monty Warren is vice president and partner of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, which has offices in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans. Warren, based in the Lafayette office, has two decades of commercial real estate experience.

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