Lake Charles City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday to accept Port Wonder LLC for the construction of the proposed $20 million Port Wonder facility on the lakefront.
Mayor Nic Hunter said the city has to follow state statute when awarding a lease to any company on city property. The project site is located between Cypress Alligator Pond and the former Harrah's Casino parking garage.
Port Wonder LLC is a subsidiary of the Baton Rouge-based nonprofit Provident Resources Group. Steve Hicks, Provident board chairman and CEO, spoke of the importance of the Port Wonder project.
Hunter said work could start by the fourth quarter of this year, including an increase of the property's base flood elevation. FEMA requires a base flood elevation of 9 feet, but the city is looking to raise the elevation at least 1 foot higher than that.
Hunter said the base flood elevation has to remain intact for roughly four to six months. Major construction on Port Wonder should begin in the second quarter of 2020 and is expected to take 15-16 months.
"This project is going to happen," Hunter said. "It's no longer pie in the sky."
The goal of Port Wonder is being the "spark that ignites development along the lakefront," Hunter said.
"We want food and beverage and retail development," he said. "This is not the end for lakefront development; this is the beginning."
Randy Goodloe, architect for Port Wonder, said the project will transform Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana.
Officials first announced the project last November, which calls for housing the Children's Museum of Lake Charles and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Science Center and Educational Complex. Other planned exhibits include a covered fishing pier, an outdoor educational complex with a walking trail and an enhanced alligator pond.
Hunter said the project is being funded through public and private dollars and will not require any new tax propositions.
Connecting the boardwalk from the Civic Center to Port Wonder is also being designed, Hunter said.