The city of Lake Charles is positioning itself for new economic development with a strategic targeted array of incentives for the Interstate 10 Corridor, Enterprise Boulevard, and the Lakefront.
At the Wednesday, June 6, City Council meeting, Mayor Nic Hunter will present a plan to the council with components of which we at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance have been advocates.
Recently at ReCon, the world’s largest retail and development trade show and conference, we learned several things. One, retail is changing due to consumer preferences and Internet shopping. Customers, however, like the real experience of visiting stores to see the merchandise and try on clothing. Successful retailers of the future may have a smaller store size with internet shopping part of the experience.
We learned that many shopping malls and major cities — including New York City — have a large number of tenant vacancies. Food and beverage establishments are driving new development as opposed to a large department store anchor. Many malls are now including medical offices and even residential units to fill the space. That is not the case here. Prien Lake Mall is doing well with two new stores opening in the last two weeks, and an exciting sports venue is getting ready to open soon.
We also learned several restaurants and retailers want to come to the Lake Charles area but are not ready because of high land costs. However, Southwest Louisiana is on the map due to the large industrial growth.
The announced closings of Toys R Us, Sears and K-Mart are due to problems nationally with those retail giants and are not due to local conditions.
How do we get development in areas that are economically depressed or for various reasons remain undeveloped such as the lakefront, the I-10 corridor, and Enterprise Boulevard/ Nellie Lutcher Cultural District?
Successful communities have utilized incentives to spur development.
Mayor Hunter’s plan will focus on those geographic areas that need a boost.
Among the new tools that the city will have will be Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIF), property tax Incentives for economic development, construction fee waivers as well as existing historic tax credits and cultural district incentives.
Many successful projects in other communities have utilized these incentives such as Juban Crossing in Livingston Parish, Hotel Indigo and the Hilton Capitol Center in Baton Rouge, Cabela’s in Gonzales and Louisiana Avenue in Lafayette.
These incentives will not guarantee development but we can look at the past track record and see that development will not occur without a push.
These incentives will not increase taxes except in the targeted areas and the new funds raised will go toward infrastructure within the respective districts.
New development means more jobs and more features such as shopping and entertainment. These incentives and others can be utilized by every city in the region.
Ultimately, it’s all about quality of life for our residents. We applaud Mayor Nic Hunter for his leadership implementing targeted incentives for the city.