$3.5M set aside for Port Wonder
Money to be used to fix parking garage, other improvements
Lake Charles City Council members voted unanimously on Wednesday to allocate $3.5 million toward planning and construction of the Port Wonder project on the lakefront, along with several other improvements.
Part of the money will be spent on raising the base flood elevation at the project’s site, located between Cypress Alligator Pond and the former Harrah’s Casino parking garage. Funds will also cover rehabilitating the parking garage, shoreline stabilization and other improvements.
City Administrator John Cardone said the $3.5 million was already set aside in the city’s budget for lakefront development.
Officials announced the $20 million-plus Port Wonder project last November. Plans call for the facility to house the Children’s Museum of Lake Charles and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Science Center and Educational Complex.
Mayor Nic Hunter said the project will be funded through a combination of public and private dollars and will not require any new tax propositions.
Local attorney Zita Andrus told the council she is excited about the facility giving parents a place in the city to take their children.
“It’s something that we can do that’s not only fun for our kids, but it’s educational,” she said.
Shellie Eskew said the site will be a “huge attraction” for school field trips and families.
Council members later authorized the city to enter into architectural and engineering agreements for different projects, including raising the base flood elevation of the lakefront property that will house Port Wonder, along with renovating the parking garage.
Earlier, the council voted unanimously to deny a request for a major conditional use permit to build a duplex at 2133 Cline St., after hearing opposition from several neighboring residents.
The city Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-2 on Dec. 10 to deny the request.
Derek Edwards, a builder who spoke on behalf of the property owners, said the intent of the project was to raise the overall value of neighborhood. However, several residents said a duplex would lower property values in the neighborhood. They added that the property’s 50-foot width wouldn’t have enough parking space, and cars would end up parked on the street.
Elliott Sterling said residents would prefer new single-family homes that could revive the neighborhood. He said there is a perception that the north side of Lake Charles “is not as good as other areas of the city.”
“We are here to dispute that,” Sterling said. “We’re arguing for 10/12 years down the road.”
District B Councilwoman Luvertha August said she has heard from residents in the area who are tired of rental properties taking over their neighborhood.
“Their complaints are they don’t know who their neighbors are anymore,” she said.
Jakylyn Bowers, a LaGrange High School senior, received a $2,000 donation to help pay for his upcoming trip to New York City in February. Bowers was chosen to sing at the upcoming Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall.
Denise Durel, United Way of Southwest Louisiana president and CEO, said the agency, along with other donors, contributed the money for Bowers’ trip.
Port Wonder is a proposed educational and entertainment venue to be located on the north shore of Lake Charles, in between the Cypress Alligator Pond and the former Harrah’s parking garage on city-owned property. The $20-plus million lakefront project was announced by Mayor Nic Hunter and other local and state officials on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.