Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 7:50 PM
During the first public meeting for the city’s proposed tax incremental financing issue, Mayor Randy Roach spent time dispelling some misconceptions. Step by step, he discussed the tax, the designs for a hotel and the impact it could have on the area.
The 9 percent tax, which will be used to build a lakefront hotel, will be limited to a designated area. This specific tax district will be the only place the city can draw funds for the project. The city also plans to lease the land where the hotel will be constructed, not sell it.
The concept for this type of project, from the sourcing to the construction, isn’t a new idea. Baton Rouge used the same financing mechanism to fund several of their projects. The Renaissance by Marriot on Bluebonnet Boulevard and the Hilton Capital Center on Lafayette Street were both funded through the TIF method.
“This didn’t originate with us,” Roach said. “We copied what they did in Baton Rouge and made it special for us, for Lake Charles.”
The project is still in the idea stage. There has yet to even be an item on a City Council agenda concerning the tax and the construction plans. For now, the project is still being developed, much like the designs for the hotel.
“The community feels very sensitive about the lakefront, and that’s a good thing,” Roach said during the meeting, held in the Civic Center’s Jean Lafitte Room. “We want to show flexibility; we want to enhance it.”
According to a PFK study, the city has a solid market for a 150-room hotel similar to a Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriot or a Hyatt. The study was based solely on the events the Civic Center now hosts and not the possibility of additional events.
“We’re trying to put together pieces in a logical way to encourage development as we go along,” Roach said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; we’re putting the pieces together”
During the meeting, three different concepts for the hotel were displayed. The designs placed a hotel in the front of the Civic Center, on the side and in the back. Each concept highlighted the fact that parking would be increased, visibility of the lake would be increased from different vantage points and each design would be pedestrian friendly.
“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. “People are out walking. They enjoy walking.”
Roach said consultants have pointed out that Lake Charles is the only one among the state’s five largest cities that doesn’t have a major downtown hotel. Making sure not to get too specific, Roach also talked about businesses that have approached him expressing concern about how their companies would perform in the area.
“They want to know, ‘Can I attract the quality of worker I need here to make my business succeed?’ ” Roach said. “ ‘What do you have, Mr. Mayor, that will make them want to live here?’ We’re in a competitive market.”
The public is encouraged to come out and give their opinions on the proposal, which will go to the council for the first time in November. The council will only make a final decision on the plan after the hotel and developer have gotten completely involved. The final vote for the proposal will take place in April.
Bill Shearman, chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, attended the meeting and said there were a few significant details of the scenario he wants to make sure the public understands.
“This is a $14 million project, and the city’s share is 20 percent,” he said. “Also, we’re leasing the land, not selling it. And the 9 percent tax is 4 percent from the state and a 5 percent local tax. That exists now.”