Controversial downtown development plans modified

by Nathan Stubbs

Ceding to the concerns of the neighborhood and to economic reality, Joie de Vivre will be smaller and have a more traditional design. The Lafayette City-Parish Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to endorse the Joie De Vivre affordable housing development being sponsored by Acadiana Outreach Center. The proposed development is to be centered at West Second and South Pierce streets, across Congress from downtown's IberiaBank tower, in the historic Mills Addition subdivision. The majority of the funding for the development is contingent upon the successful application of Federal Housing Administration tax credits. Greg Gachassin of the The Cartesian Group, the lead consultant on the project, says his group plans to submit its tax credit application next Friday. The tax credits will be awarded in December.

Plans for the project were first presented to the public in May. Gachassin says those plans have since been adjusted based on funding limitations, some unsuccessful property acquisitions and feedback from area residents. The total price tag for the project has dropped from approximately $25 million to $16.5 million. Gachassin says the number of apartments in the complex also has been reduced from 118 to 72, additional parking has been added, and some design features have changed. "We really changed the elevations, the looks, the facade of the development," he says. "We added some brick into it. It's not as modern a design as originally proposed. And that was based on feedback from people in the community who felt it was too modern a design and needed to be toned down a little bit."

Planners have kept the new designs under wraps until after Joie De Vivre makes its tax credit application, which is a competitive process. Gachassin says the new plans will likely be unveiled at a public meeting sometime next month. The tax credit application obligates Joie De Vivre to rent affordable units to tenants at or below 60 percent of Lafayette's annual Area Median Income of $57,500. In order to score additional points, the application also states Joie De Vivre will cater to individuals with children - requiring that 20 percent of tenants have a child living with them. For more on Joie De Vivre, and some of the controversy it has sparked among Mills Addition residents, read The Independent's May cover story, "A Fighting Chance."