Laying out the future

Gonzales leaders and citizens meet with CPEX to draft ideas for a downtown development plan for the city.

When most people think of Gonzales they think of modern commercial building and retail. But who knows, the future could bring Gonzales to a modern past with a newly designed downtown area to add personality to the retail and industry dominated city. Last Wednesday, over a dozen citizens met, for the second time, at the Gonzales Civic Center to learn and discuss with the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) the possibilities for a designated downtown area for the city.

CPEX is a group out of Baton Rouge that helps communities around the state figure out how to grow and make sure development patterns are planned and not hap-hazard.  The ideas discussed in the meetings will be used for a draft plan that will be presented in the early Spring, according to Janet Thorpe of CPEX.

“Then we will continue to work with the committee and have a series of at least two more open houses scheduled with a drafted plan coming back to those who are interested,” Thorpe said.

“People will have fun with it because they’ll see their ideas in the plan here and there. I encourage people to attend in the spring and bring more ideas and comments to our draft,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe and other representatives for CPEX divided the citizens into groups and set them at tables where there was a drawing map that showed the City of Gonzales along Highway 44 (Burnside) in the area from Cornerview to about where St. Theresa’s is located.

The groups discussed things they’d like to see in the area in terms of mobility, open space and redevelopment. However, of the four groups many different final plans were presented.

Gonzales councilman Kirk Boudreaux said as far as highway 44 goes it has to stay four lanes from Cornerview to St. Theresa. And added secondly, if “we go to redevelop any existing buildings it’s not going to be much parking.”

“The open space, I can’t see us widening 44 and the green space that we do have is owned by the school board,” Boudreaux said. “If we could a business like a UPS store, some cafes or something, but I would love to see it become a business corridor to service businesses. It’s not what I wanted to come up with but after we looked at the availability this is what we have.”

Debbie LaCour agreed 44 can’t be widened but the curb appeal could be enhanced. In doing so, she said her group offered the idea the city could get the powerlines down underground and possibly take the open space and make it a major walking area and give it major curb appeal.

“The big deal is to enhance what we have by curb appeal,” LaCour said. “We also think we should look beyond and possibly look at Alexander as a surrogate to 44.”

LaCour said more green space that could be used for a Farmer’s Market, Café, taking advantage of what’s already started on New River, make the walk path come all the way to 44 and encourage walking to feed to the museum and the theatre where citizens don’t have to walk to 44 all the time.

Karen Hatcher had similar ideas and talked about a railroad depot that could be coming to the area.

“Enhancing the front of a lot of the buildings and making them more attractive,” Hatcher said. “We will be competing with Prairieville if they ever become a city and we need to not be a dead town, we need to be more exciting with the things for people to do.”