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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Editorial: Civic center hotel project to invigorate downtown

Last Modified: Friday, October 18, 2013 6:02 PM

If at first you don’t succeed, Mr. Mayor, try, try again.

In April, city voters rejected a tax proposal that would have helped finance a hotel adjacent to the Lake Charles Civic Center. The proposal — which would have created a taxing district around the Civic Center, the hotel and on lakefront property to raise $3.4 million to help fund construction of a 150-room, six-story hotel — failed by a vote of 2,770-2,413, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

Now, the mayor is gearing up for round two.

Still in the infant design stages, Randy Roach presented the city’s new tax incremental financing plan for a downtown hotel recently to area residents. His goal was to dispel any misconceptions about the 9 percent tax.

“The community feels very sensitive about the lakefront, and that’s a good thing,” Roach said. “We want to show flexibility; we want to enhance it.”

During the meeting, three different concepts for the hotel were unveiled. Options included building a hotel in the front of the Civic Center, on the side and in the back.

“Whatever we do at the Civic Center should, if done right, help downtown development. It’s amazing what happened to Ryan Street when we did the streetscape,” Roach said.

During the previous vote, many in the city had serious reservations, which they later shared with the American Press.

Voters complained the hotel would obstruct the view of the lake. Others wondered if the city would be left holding the bag if the hotel failed. Others also decried the possible loss of parking around the Civic Center.

The city needs to do a better job of convincing voters of the benefits of the hotel this go ‘round. In our view, it’s a no-brainer.

Southwest Louisiana is poised for an economic boom, and a hotel downtown would be an integral part of that. In addition to the $47 billion in coming industry expansion that will bring thousands to our area (and later, their visiting families), Mardi Gras Boardwalk may be on the horizon for the lakefront as well as the National Hurricane Museum.

One thing to remember, though, is that this is not a casino hotel — it would rely on revenue from the Civic Center and downtown-area events.

The Civic Center is going to have to live up to its potential in order to support the hotel. In the same regards, the hotel is a way to help the Civic Center do just that.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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