Hurricane museum on lakefront scrapped

The National Hurricane Museum and Science Center has notified the city of Lake Charles that, after an arduous 10 years of planning, it no longer intends to build a museum on the lakefront.

Mayor Randy Roach said he received a letter May 17 from Gray Stream, museum board chairman, releasing the city from its commitment to reserve lakefront land north of the Civic Center for the development.

Although the letter doesn’t detail plans for the future, it says the museum will remain a nonprofit corporation based at the Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau. The museum board could not be reached for comment Thursday. 

Project supporters were able to secure commitments for about $42 million of the $60 million to $70 million price tag, but were ultimately unable to fill the funding gap.

The museum faced a major setback in April 2016 when a 10-year, 1.5-mill property tax proposal failed overwhelmingly at the polls. The tax would have helped fund construction of the facility and would have brought in $2.6 million a year — most of which would have gone to the museum and the rest to seven other museums in the parish. 

Eighty percent of voters opposed the tax, while 20 percent supported it.

The museum was expected to bring in as many as 220,000 visitors per year and provide the region with a $55 million annual economic impact.

The city in early May prepared for the possibility that the board might decide not to move forward with the project. The council voted to allow the city the option of entering a $25,000 architectural services agreement with Randy M. Goodloe to develop an alternative plan for the land if the project was canceled.

“The idea with Goodloe is to get people to start thinking about that site not as the site for the hurricane museum, but a site for the city to use for another development,” Roach said.

He said Goodloe is expected to address the council at its June 13 agenda meeting to discuss ideas and set up a schedule for future development meetings.

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