Port Wonder gaining support

Members of the Downtown Development Authority on Monday passed a resolution to support Port Wonder, a $20 million-plus project that is intended to revitalize the lakefront and attract tourists to Lake Charles.

The project was first announced during a news conference in November. Located between Cypress Alligator Pond and the former Harrah’s Casino parking garage, the venue will house the Children’s Museum of Lake Charles and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Science Center and Educational Complex.

“We wanted something that was iconic (and) eye-catching,” Mayor Nic Hunter said.

The project consultant, Cambridge Seven Associates, worked on the $14 million Knock Knock Museum in Baton Rouge, Hunter said. It its first year, the museum attracted more than 200,000 visitors, The Advocate reported in August.

Hunter said he is confident the project will happen and is the start of truly redeveloping the lakefront. He said $7 million in settlement funding from the BP oil spill is dedicated for the science center and educational complex. $12 million has been identified from local sources.

The city is willing to provide $3 million in land it owns.

Some of the planned exhibits at Port Wonder include a covered fishing pier, an outdoor educational complex with a walking trail, an enhanced alligator pond and revamped exhibits for the Children’s Museum.

Lori Marinovich, city assistant planning director, called Port Wonder a “game- changer for the lakefront” that may attract other commercial development.

“A restaurant now may have more interest in developing right there on the lakefront,” she said.

Marinovich also spoke about plans to repair erosion along the Civic Center shoreline, from North Beach to the promenade. She said sections of sidewalks are being undercut, while areas around bridges and other structures need repairs.

The plans also call for researching how water drains and flows into the lake. She said using city maintenance funding is important to prepare the lakefront area for Port Wonder.

“That has to happen to help make it a safer environment to when you have this big development come in,” Marinovich said. “And so we’re looking at what we can do now to kind of set the stage.”””

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.

Special to the American Press