The changing landscape of LC

By By Rita LeBleu / American Press

Traffic changes are making it easier for people to visit downtown Lake Charles business and entertainment venues and three

new building sites have popped up along East McNeese.

According to Lori Marinovich, Lake Charles downtown development executive director, the I-10 Ryan Street off ramp project

that includes frontage roads that tie Ryan Street

with Lakeshore Drive from both the eastbound and westbound exits are

currently in the construction stage. Soon eastbound

traffic will be able to take the Lakeshore Dr. exit that passes in

front of the Southwest Louisiana Visitors and Tourist Bureau

and continue into the downtown area or travel along Beldon, the

I-10 feeder road, without having to turn onto Lakeshore Drive.

Land for sale signs along the 2000 block of East McNeese are quickly being replaced with new buildings.

One of the significant changes in the

evolving landscape is at the corner of East McNeese and South Park

Drive. That’s where

the new $10.5 million dollar Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy

will open its doors to grades K-8 when the 2014 school year

begins on Aug. 14.

Henry Mancuso, who serves as secretary on the Southwest Charter Academy Board of Trustees, said that the school’s layout is

based on the model pod complex design. Each pod features four classrooms built around a center room.

Mancuso and Charles Honore, VP of Southwest Charter Academy visited the Governor’s Charter Academy in Tallahassee, Fla., to

get a good look at the design and how it works.

Learning environment

From the center room, each of the four

classes can be viewed through a glass half-wall partition, making it

easy for parents

and student teachers to visit and observe classrooms without

interruption. The center room is also an area where paraprofessionals

can conduct pull-out sessions to help students who may need more

one-on-one, while teacher’s keep the majority of students

on task.

Passersby may have noticed how quickly

the building has taken shape. The construction is tilt-wall according to

Mancuso “Once

the foundation is poured, the process goes fairly quickly.” The

walls come in on a flat bed truck. These are off loaded. “It

works a lot like legos,” he said.

The general contractor is Pat Williams Construction. Headquarters are in Leesville, but there is a Lake Charles office as

well.

Twisted concept

At 2336 McNeese St., Hurricane Off-Road, LLC, is building a new showroom and service area for its after-market truck customizing

business. Owners are Shelby Hutchinson and Robbie Sutphin. Hutchinson said that the name of the business was determined a

couple of years before Hurricane Rita. “We had been thinking about what to call it for a couple of months when my younger brother, Seth, came up with it. We wanted something different but local to the area. We didn’t want to be Southwest something or Gulf Coast Trucks.” Hutchinson said.

The building, like the name is out of the box. “We didn’t want just another metal building,” Hutchinson said. His dad and

local architect Randy Goodloe put their heads together and came up with a version that will have a feature that looks like it’s

been twisted by strong winds.

The company has been leasing a location on Bennett Road, off Common for the last few years, but there’s no showroom.

The new store will feature a showroom and service area and an eye-catching special display to show off newly customized trucks.

“We’ll probably take photographs of trucks and their owners. It’ll be fun,” he said.

Hutchinson wants to provide an exciting experience for customers and browsers alike, based on the excitement he used to feel

as a boy when his grandfather, Bob Hutchinson, would take him to tour the local fire station.

Plans are to open this summer. Keiland Construction is the general contractor.

New and convenient

Kurt Coleman, the agency manager for Farm Bureau expects the new brick 4,400 square foot building going up at 2352 East McNeese

will be open and ready for business this fall.

Currently the company has a location off Enterprise Boulevard, a claims office on McNeese and an office in Sulphur.

The new location will house the claims office and Enterprise operations.

“Exposure is key,” Coleman said. “The new location will also make it more convenient for customers.

Legends Development is the general contractor. Architect is Curtis Vincent.

Do you have development news to share with the American Press or do you want to know what’s going on at a certain building site location in your community? Email rlebleu@americanpress.com.