Stewart's TIF proposal dies

by Leslie Turk

Developer Glenn Stewart's TIF has been pulled from consideration before the council.

Government officials announced Saturday morning that the developer for Parc Lafayette and the executive director of the Industrial Development Board for Lafayette Parish have pulled their request for an Economic Development District on Kaliste Saloom Road at Camellia Boulevard, the site of the proposed Parc Lafayette lifestyle center.

Both parties have notified the City-Parish Council of their decision to withdraw their request for the creation of the Parc Lafayette Economic Development, or Tax Increment Financing, districts to fund development of a four- or five-star hotel and convention center, the release stated. LEDA President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux is the IDB's executive director.

It's unclear what prompted the decision, though the proposal has come under strong opposition from the Tea Party of Lafayette (listen to its PSA here) and local hoteliers, who said in today's Advocate that they are struggling in an already overbuilt market. The proposal called for an additional 2 cent sales tax and 2 cent occupancy tax at the hotel, and a 1 cent sales tax in the retail development planned to surround the hotel.

According to the release, developer Dr. Glenn Stewart plans to move forward with the construction of a 4-star boutique hotel and retail center. That means the proposed 124-room hotel will now have closer to 50 or 60 rooms, Stewart told The Independent Weekly for this story.

"My goal in creating Parc Lafayette and this hotel was to give Lafayette, and all of Acadiana, something to be proud of, something that could unite everyone in the shared culture and history we all possess," Stewart said in today's release. "Instead this TIF has done just the opposite."

Stewart became his own worst enemy after the proposal came under fire, calling Tea Party of Lafayette members "idiots" in a public meeting and then misleading this paper and others about how much property he actually owns at the site.

In Saturday's press release, Stewart emphasized the fact that incentives he pursued were part of a package LEDA developed in its "Major Hotel" incentives letter of January 2009, a collaborative marketing effort between LEDA and Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission to bring a 4-star convention center hotel to Lafayette.

"I commend LEDA for putting together a very attractive package of incentives for a developer to build a four-star convention center hotel. Without a package of this nature, it is impossible to build such a risky, capital-intensive project," Stewart said. "Even with this incentive package, approximately one dozen other developers had decided it was too risky by the time I found out about it in March of 2009. I was willing to take this risk because I truly believed it would have exposed our great city to a wide audience, and help attract new business to Lafayette."

"It was important that we go through this very public process," said City-Parish President Joey Durel, one of the project's biggest supporters. "Dr. Stewart is to be commended for his efforts to make Parc Lafayette a unique experience that would attract people from all over."

"A multi-million dollar investment, like the one made by Dr. Stewart, is so important to the economic vitality of our community," said Gothreaux in the release. "We are disappointed to pull this proposal, but we are very impressed with Dr. Stewart's plans to continue with this project. I'm sorry that this EDD effort has to be withdrawn. We have supported Dr. Stewart and believed this approach was best for the community. I regret that this has happened."

Gothreaux, who declined further comment on the matter, also described the original marketing letter as an opportunity to provide information on prospective incentives to any hotel/resort developer. The ordinances creating the Parc Lafayette TIFs were to be considered by the City-Parish Council at its March 15 meeting.

Durel could not be reached for further comment.