Southwest Louisiana 50-year master plan a winner

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Experts from across the country got a good look at Southwest Louisiana’s 50-Year Master Plan, and it made a winning impression. The Congress for National Urbanism (CNU) named it a 2024 Charter Award Winner in May. Charter Awards recognize exemplary work by CNU members and their allies from all over the world.

Jim Rock, executive director of the Lake Area Industry Alliance and Community Foundation Board Chair, said the prestigious award confirms the plan’s direction, and that it is equal to the best plans in the country.

“Our community deserves to have the best for the current and future generations,” Rock said.

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The plan wasn’t made in a day. The process included giving community members ample opportunity to be involved and to think about the future they wanted. That level of input is a big part of what made the plan a success and what caught the attention of the CNU. Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter called it a plan that created hope.

“During one of our city’s most troubling times, the Just Imagine SWLA plan helped give hope with an opportunity to look forward and imagine what our community could look like beyond our immediate despair,” said Hunter.

After the weather disasters of 2020 and 2021, it was clear that the region needed to rebuild and do it in a more resilient way. Moss Bluff native David Filo and wife Angela’s gift of $2.5 million to the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana made it possible to develop such a plan.

The process engaged the region. More than 2,500 people participated in the over 10-month period, in-person and online. Approximately 7,300 comments shaped the plan and the 11 catalytic projects that resulted. Eight of the 11 catalytic projects are addressed in the REBOUND initiative.

A team of 11 people from Southwest Louisiana participated in the CNU Award ceremony, according to Jill Galmarini, Community Foundation director of civic initiatives. Among them were Eric Avery, owner of Crying Eagle Brewery. The Brewery’s new lakefront location is a key component in the Just Imagine plan for waterfront development.     

“I had the great privilege of seeing some of the greatest urban designs in the world,” Avery said, “and our region’s plan was included among them.”    

The Community Foundation is the facilitator of Just Imagine. Sara Judson, CEO, said the “award affirms that our plan is innovative and exemplary urban design that is the result of teamwork across the region.”

The input from high school students to business owners, elected officials and anyone who chose to participate demonstrates the concerns, hopes and dreams for the next 50 years of Calcasieu and Cameron parishes and is reflected in the plan’s framework, according to Judson. She said the plan is a framework that will continue to be in conversation with projects, ideas and circumstances as they unfold through the next 50 years.

“Administrations come and go,” she said. “The Community Foundation is committed to being the constant, guiding light to ensure the Just Imagine Plan will make a positive, lasting impact.”