Businesses appealing, complement neighborhood

By By Eric Cormier / American Press

William “Dub” Henning experiences satisfaction when he looks at Oak Crossing at the intersection of Nelson and Ham Reid roads.

The development that he started has 35,000 square feet of office space situated on 20 acres of land. Standing in the center

of the business park are a number of majestic oak trees, which led to the property’s name.

According to Henning, the buildings were designed in a French vernacular architectural style. Of that style, Oak Crossing’s

website says, “Found primarily in Louisiana and in many early settlements along the Mississippi River; this style exhibits

the influences of two major French-speaking immigrant populations, the Cajuns and the Creoles.”

As appealing to the eye as the buildings are, they also complement the homes nearby.

Henning built in what the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury defines as the Nelson Road Overlay District, which was founded in 2004,

according to officials.

The district — which spans a two-mile stretch of the unincorporated section of Nelson Road south of Country Club Road and

north of Tank Farm Road — has a set of rules and guidelines that dictate commercial development.

“It’s good. It can be tweaked in some areas, but it is important to keep continuity,” Henning said.

The zoning code stipulates how buildings should look, landscaping, and even how the grounds should be lit.

Henning said the area where Oak Crossing was built is designated for professional-service-type businesses. Farther south,

retail stores are allowed.

Lake Charles architect Jeff Kudla is

overseeing the completion of a convenience store at 5841 Nelson Road. He

said the guidelines

cause developers to spend more on their projects, but that

property values in the district will remain strong in the long

term.

“Basically, everything that is built

has to look like a home to maintain the residential culture even though

these are businesses,”

he said.

The owners of the convenience store probably would have built a metal building because the materials would have been cheaper,

Kudla said.

He designed a multipurpose store with red brick and shingles on the roof. It looks similar to the homes a few hundred yards

away.

“Yes, it is a big upfront investment, but you don’t loose the value. I’ve seen these in places like Austin, Texas, and Broward

County, Fla.,” he said.

Wes Crain, director of the parish’s planning and development office, said the district was created in anticipation of economic

growth due to Nelson Road being expanded to five lanes.

He recalled rumors in the early 2000s — which proved true — about Memorial Hospital being interested in constructing a new

medical facility near Nelson Road.

“As a result, the parish felt it would

become a commercial corridor,” Crain said. “Before the overlay district

was created,

land in that area was zoned residential or mixed use. Now,

development can happen but we also protect the residential character.”

Developers and builders who need variances have to present plans to the Nelson Overlay District Review Board, which will pass

recommendations to the Police Jury.

Crain said the zoning policy works and that eventually more businesses will locate on the southern section of Nelson Road.

“That will happen as the city grows and the population continues to move south,” he said. “This ordinance ensures that the

neighborhoods will be protected.”