On September 10, 2020, Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) was awarded a $10 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant by the US Department of Transportation (DOT). The $10 million BUILD grant will fund two components of the University Avenue Corridor Project.

Spanning both the Robideaux and Guillory administrations, The BUILD grant is the culmination of a multi-year planning process that began with a citizen-led Better Block Four Corners event in 2016. Better Block Four Corners was a partnership between Bridge Ministry, Townfolk, and the LaPlace Coterie and was designed to show what a revitalized University Corridor at four corners could look like from the perspective of the citizens who lived there.

In 2017, LCG was awarded a $500,000 urban systems planning grant from the Acadiana Metropolitan Planning Organization (AMPO) to conduct a corridor study to improve safety and to help revitalize University Avenue from its intersection at Four Corners north to its intersection with Interstate 10. Additional community meetings were conducted at Bridge Ministry and other neighborhood sites where hundreds of residents gave their vision for the revitalized corridor. Recommendations from the corridor study resulted in the creation of both a state cultural district and the formation of the University Economic Development District. At the same time as the transportation corridor planning effort, the Acadiana Planning Commission (APC) was awarded a $300,000 EPA assessment grant to identify and assess potential brownfields sites along the same corridor.

These joint planning efforts, and the investments that they represented, successfully attracted HRI to invest and redevelop the block that contained the LessPay Motel and the historic Lafayette Coca-Cola Bottling Plant. The resulting $37 Million dollar investment has resulted in the demolition of the blighted LessPay property and will result in the creation of 110 units of workforce housing with a leasing preference for working artists.

In 2018 and to attract additional investment into the University Corridor; APC and its partners at LCG, OneAcadiana, and LEDA successfully nominated the three census tracts along the University Corridor to be included in Governor Edwards’ list of designated Opportunity Zones. In 2019 representatives from the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council toured the University Corridor as an example in best practices in implementing local strategies to maximize the Opportunity Zone incentive.

The successful $10 million BUILD grant is the product of the community’s vision that has been advanced by both the Robideaux and then the Guillory administration, the Acadiana Planning Commission and its Metropolitan Planning Organization, OneAcadiana, the Governor’s Office, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, north Lafayette’s legislative delegation, Louisiana’s congressional delegation and both of Louisiana Senators. It was written by a team of grant writers from both LCG and APC and represents about a third of the funding that will go into the road and safety improvements along the University Corridor. The total cost of the University Corridor improvements is expected to be just over $30 million. The combined committed investment to date along the University Corridor approaches $70 Million, a historic level for North Lafayette.

(Press release sent to KPEL News by Lafayette City Council Chair Pat Lewis - District 1.)