The Acadiana region’s new nine-parish business organization has hired an experienced professional to spearhead its urban revitalization initiative. Harry Weiss will relocate to Lafayette in June, joining One Acadiana as vice president of urban revitalization and development, a newly created position aimed at helping transform Acadiana's core.
Weiss, who has a bachelor’s degree in history and art history from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Oregon, is currently executive director of the Downtown Development Authority & Business Improvement District in Grand Junction, Colo.
His new post is funded by The Campaign for One Acadiana, a five-year regional economic development program that began its implementation phase in 2015. Weiss will be responsible for leading all urban development initiatives for One Acadiana, the organization noted in a statement, working in close partnership with business leaders, property owners, government officials and other partners.
Weiss has served the Grand Junction DDA & BID since 2011, responsible for advocacy, budgeting, district planning, policy development, media relations, implementation of public capital improvements and public-private partnership and management of a public art program. According to the statement from One Acadiana, Weiss has played a key role in improving Downtown Grand Junction through the adoption of a new Downtown Master Plan, a new housing strategy, and the fulfillment of a 30-year-old dream of a new performing arts facility on Main Street.
Prior to his Grand Junction tenure, Weiss worked for nearly 20 years in Asheville, N.C., where he helped transform a declining Downtown into a nationally acclaimed example of revitalization, admired for its rich historical context, thriving contemporary cultural life, and social and economic diversity. During this time, he first served as executive director of the local preservation non-profit, providing leadership in community education and advocacy for Downtown. Weiss then joined Public Interest Projects Inc., the leading for-profit real estate and small business development company focusing on Asheville’s Downtown through investments in real estate, business ventures, and public-private partnerships. These efforts addressed chronic parking deficiencies and injected a large amount of residential development, creating extraordinarily positive results. His previous roles also include professor and department chair of historic preservation at the Savannah College of Art & Design and survey coordinator and lead researcher for Santa Fe National Register Historic District.
“It is an exceptional opportunity to be invited into a community that has undertaken the serious and hard work of thinking about its future from a regional perspective, fashioning an ambitious urban vision for its core, and mobilizing the leadership and resources necessary for a strategic program of improvement,” Weiss said in the prepared statement.
One Acadiana says Weiss will be charged with identifying and catalyzing initiatives and projects that will help revitalize the urban core of Acadiana, including major gateways and areas around Downtown Lafayette and UL Lafayette. He will work closely with community stakeholders to strategically direct public and private investments to initiatives such as gateway improvements, recruitment and sale of land for development of business sites, parking infrastructure, streetscape improvements and targeted neighborhood revitalization activities.
Weiss’ selection concludes a targeted search effort by some of Acadiana’s key urban revitalization and development partners, including Pat Trahan, vice chairman for the Lafayette region of IberiaBank and chairman of Lafayette’s Downtown Development Authority; Flo Meadows, Realtor at Coldwell Banker Pelican Real Estate; Nathan Norris, CEO of Lafayette’s Downtown Development Authority; and Kevin Blanchard, chief development officer of Lafayette Consolidated Government. Carrie Templeton, CEO of Lafayette Surgical Hospital, chaired the committee.
“We have a solid nucleus that makes us attractive to professionals like Harry who bring real experience from markets that have seen extraordinary growth and are doing things we aspire [to] accomplish,” said Trahan.
“[Weiss] has a unique blend of experience in the academic, non-profit, public and private sectors. I have spoken with half a dozen of his colleagues over the past 20 years, and they all describe Harry as a passionate visionary who has the background, experience, and expertise to get things accomplished,” said Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of One Acadiana (the organization encompasses the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, which El Koubi previously headed).
Read more about some of the challenges facing Lafayette's urban core here.