Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Development in Lafayette is heating up. By Anna Purdy and Leslie Turk

The retail slowdown in Lafayette appears to have been short-lived. All over town dirt is turning again and once-vacant buildings are being occupied.
“From what I am seeing, it looks like we are starting to show signs of real life,” says John Broyles, a Lafayette Consolidated Government permitting official. Flipping through his permitting records, Broyles says the flow of requests has reached a steady pace.

Jeff Larcade, a planner for LCG who does the number crunching, says new commercial permitting activity is up 13 percent for the first six months of this fiscal year versus the same period last year. This year, 27 permits were issued from November to April compared with 24 for the comparable period a year ago. The dollar value is up 10 percent, growing from $27.7 million last year to $30.6 million this fiscal year.

“There just isn’t what I would call a home-run project, like Lourdes, which was a $600,000 permit fee [on a $120 million permit; Lourdes' total investment was $211 million],” Broyles says. “Now when Halliburton comes through, that’s going to be a big one.”

Broyles is referencing the oilfield services giant’s selection of north Lafayette over a pool of state and international competitors for a major manufacturing facility that’s expected to create 150 direct jobs. Halliburton is investing $65 million in the project and plans to begin construction by July of this year, creating an additional 250 construction jobs.
Also in north Lafayette, work has been well under way on a new Academy Sports in the Stirling Lafayette shopping center at Louisiana Avenue and Interstate 10. ABiz first announced Academy’s plans to expand to north Lafayette, and broke the news that Rouses was headed to Bertrand Drive and both Walk-On’s and Bullritos to Kaliste Saloom Road.

This may be the closest we ever get to Saints QB Drew Brees: a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, for which Brees is a New Orleans area franchisee, is opening next to Aveda in Lafayette’s Winnwood Shopping Center on Johnston Street. Owner-operator Corey Scranton says a tentative opening date is set for Sept. 1. BTW, Brees’ favorite sandwich is the No. 9. Can we get him here for the opening? “That would be nice, wouldn’t it,” says a doubtful Scranton.

A Brees appearance would surely spark the kind of excitement that was stirred up by the recent Whole Foods announcement. Area residents lit up our blog page on May 11, after we reported that Whole Foods Market had finally decided on a Lafayette spot. But it turns out that an official with the Houston company buying the old Kmart site on Ambassador Caffery misled local officials into believing that his company had a letter of intent with Whole Foods to build a new store on an outparcel at the site. Not so, says Whole Foods, forcing equally keyed up media outlets all over town to correct the story. The Burlington Coat Factory part of the deal, which calls for the New Jersey based department store to occupy the long vacant Kmart building itself, is still a go — so we’re told.

Moving down Ambassador Caffery toward the Mall of Acadiana, Rooms to Go has started to construct its first area store at the site of the old Marshall’s Nursery. The moderately priced furniture retailer, headquartered in Florida, hopes to open by the first quarter of next year.

The real action, however, is farther down Ambassador to Kaliste Saloom Road, which is fast becoming Lafayette’s new restaurant row. Hai-Nam Asian restaurant is well under way next to Walk-On’s; after May 29, Case Olé on Kaliste Saloom will be no more, but the good news is that Dean-O’s Pizza, the family-owned business in operation since 1971, will open a second location in its spot.

ABiz spoke to Karen Metcalf, who owns the venerated pizza and pasta joint with her husband Tim. “We plan to be open Sept. 1 after some extensive remodeling,” she says. Son Greg will be the general manager of this second location, expected to be called Dean-O’s South. The bar in this location will be a little bigger to accommodate the south side’s happy hour crowd.

The expansion will pit Dean-O’s against another longtime Italian favorite, north Lafayette institution Pizza Village, which hopes to be open next to Walk-On’s by the first of the year. Owned by Glenn Landry and Buddy Tarpley, Pizza Village eight years ago built a new store at 1935 Moss St. to replace its location just across the street.

The south side Pizza Village will offer the same menu and ambiance of the existing location, which has been in business for four decades, with one major exception: “We’re going to have a full bar,” says Michael Trahan, one of the eatery’s managers who assume management of the new store.

Al fresco seating will accommodate about 20, Michael says, with inside seating for about 260. It’s a larger operation than Moss Street.

Also making the one-door-closes-another-door opens category is The Elephant Room. A south Lafayette restaurant that offered a rare combination of beef and burlesque for the past year, it has closed at the corner of Ambassador Caffery and Kaliste Saloom for a spot closer to its sister restaurant, Marcello’s Wine Market Café in the 300 block of Kaliste Saloom. The old Elephant Room location will reopen under current owner Gene Todaro, but it will have a new name and new concept. No opening d ate has been set, and no details are being released at this time. Blakley Kymen, executive chef of both locations, confirms that The Elephant Room will be moving into the old Bella Notte a few doors down from Marcello’s, where the menu will focus on more sophisticated bar food. Expected to open in July, it will still feature entertainment.

Developer Glenn Stewart’s lifestyle center across from River Ranch, Parc Lafayette, is set to welcome La Marquis, what Stewart has described as an upscale department store in the same vein as the former Abdalla’s.

In River Ranch itself, renowned New Orleans chef Donald Link is expanding his uber successful Cochon concept to a site on the Vermilion River, and local chef Jude Tauzin is slated to open a self-serve wine shop and restaurant called Pour. It’s opening in the Town Square, across from Tauzin’s Village Café.

Last month ABiz broke the good news about a Poupart’s in Gordon Square, and we’ve since learned that Carpe Diem! Gelato-Espresso Bar is moving into the Juliet Hotel at 812 Jefferson St. (See “On the Menu” in Turk File.)

Genterie Supply Company is taking over where the second Philippe’s Wine Cellar location moved out more than a month ago. Located on Vermilion Street across from Parc Sans Souci, Genterie is owned by Ross Fontenot and Jon Peterson, both of whom are new to retail.

According to Fontenot, Genterie will be “men’s casual wear, but it will be more up-to-date than anything else being done in town right now.” He says toiletries, books and possibly music will be offered as well. The tentative opening is June.

“We both have a passion for style,” Fontenot says.

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