Acadiana Business

Let the Horse Farm design begin

by Leslie Turk

Austin firm and group of locals holding forums to seek public input on conversion of acreage into passive park.

After announcing Sept. 20 that a master planning team had been chosen for the Horse Farm project, Lafayette Central Park Inc. wasted no time getting the process going. That process - creating the vision for what the park will eventually become - involves substantial community input. On Oct. 12 the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority presented a $2.6 million check to LCP's board chair Lenny Lemoine, seed funds to get the ball rolling on the plan.

Design Workshop's Kurt Culbertson

Led by Austin-based Design Workship, a team of designers, architects, ecologists and engineers is charged with converting the 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm into a world-class central park.

That team, along with reps from LCP - the nonprofit created to manage the initiative - will begin fielding ideas on what the public wants the 100 acres to become at a series of forums at the end of October. Lafayette Consolidated Government purchased the property from UL Lafayette last year for $6 million in a partial land-swap deal and entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement and lease arrangement with LCP.

The first round of forums will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center downtown and again that day from 6-8 p.m. at the South Regional Library on Johnston Street; on Thursday, Oct. 24, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Heymann Center Ballroom on South College and from 6-8 p.m. at the MLK Center on Cora Street; on Friday, Oct. 25, from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the Fletcher Hall Auditorium on UL's campus; and on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 8 a.m.-noon at the Horse Farm.

LCP says Design Workshop, which joined forces with local and national firms, beat out stiff competition for the job because of its extensive experience in landscape architecture, urban design and strategic services to clients in North America and throughout the world.

Design Workshop Chairman and CEO Kurt Culbertson is from Louisiana and maintains close connections to his alma mater, LSU, and his roots. Also part of the design group, ETM Associates is a national expert in park operations and maintenance, while team members Mader Engineering, Ray Brassieur, Bill Fontenot and Franklin Associates are locals to Lafayette and the state.
LCP points out that locals make up 60 percent of the team, most of whom are in Lafayette, and several of the team members in the Austin office of Design Workshop are either from Louisiana or went to school here.

LCP noted in announcing the winner:
In meeting the recreational needs of neighborhoods, preserving unique landscapes, memorializing historic sites or simply protecting the land, Design Workshop has crafted exceptional parks and open spaces for people around the world. They are committed to protecting and restoring natural environments, conserving ecosystems, redeveloping abandoned, idled or under-utilized properties and creating beautiful parks for residents and visitors. Their experience allows them to balance environmental principles, the needs of local communities and economic realities in order to turn the most challenging sites into vibrant places. They are accustomed to creating places that are not only appropriate, compelling and sustainable but which appeal to the heart.

"We went to great lengths to make this selection process as thorough as possible, because we had so many great teams submit proposals," Lenny Lemoine, chairman of LCP's board, says in a prepared release. "In the end, it really speaks to the quality of Design Workshop's portfolio and their approach to our project that they were the firm that was consistently at the top of our rankings during each step of the decision-making process."

Officials also announced the launch of a new website,, which will be utilized throughout the planning process to keep members of the community informed, educated and engaged in the park development process.

The website includes a video featuring interviews with some notable community figures and everyday residents of Lafayette who share their sentiments about the Horse Farm (viewing it is quite emotional for those of us who know just how close we came to losing this breathtaking treasure).

"We are getting ready to embark on a journey throughout Lafayette where we will meet with many civic groups and organizations of all sizes and members of the public where we will share this inspiring video, speak about the process of the park development, seek feedback and answer questions," LCP Director of Planning and Development E.B. Brooks says. "I am very pleased that everyone will have an opportunity to play a role in the future of the park at the Horse Farm through this video and these forums. The excitement is contagious."