Doc-turned-developer Glenn Stewart’s Parc Lafayette is more than collateral damage in his public crusade against The Independent, but the center’s tenants deserve our support. By Leslie Turk • Photos by Robin May
Most local business owners would love to have tens of thousands of dollars to spend promoting their goods and services. Glenn Stewart has that kind of money. But he’s been using it to the detriment of his real estate development.
Developer Glenn Stewart’s upscale department store in Parc Lafayette is set to open in early March. Will La Marquise — Stewart’s own concept — fall victim to his bad behavior?
It’s probably hard for many people to believe that one of the first stories — perhaps the very first — on the Parc Lafayette development appeared March 30, 2010, on the pages of this business publication:
Coming soon to the prime quadrant at Kaliste Saloom Road, Camellia Boulevard, Long Plantation Road and Starling Lane is Parc Lafayette, Lafayette’s first outdoor lifestyle center. At the center of it all is a park with mature live oaks, bronze sculptures and green spaces highlighting Acadiana’s culture and Lafayette’s namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette. The front 14-acre tract features 140,000 square feet of premium space for upscale shopping and dining. In the back 20 acres is the centerpiece — a four-star, full-service hotel with a French flair. “I think this is the best commercial property in Lafayette,” says developer Glenn Stewart. “It’s a great location — right across from River Ranch. The intersection gets 75,000 cars a day, so it’s a very good commercial site. ...
After returning to his native Lafayette in 2004, Stewart contacted Daniel Saloom and his family about buying the well-located, undeveloped plat draped with majestic 80-year-old oak trees. For three years, he and architect Kevin Gossen drafted over a dozen designs before finalizing the site plan. In January 2009, Parc Lafayette purchased the property and officially launched the project.
Similar lifestyle centers exist in major cities like Dallas and Houston, with the closest being Baton Rouge’s Towne Center at Cedar Lodge and Perkins Rowe. “It will be Lafayette’s first lifestyle center, which is basically an outdoor shopping center with entertainment,” Stewart explains, “so that people can make an all-day affair out of going to these locations.”
Fast forward to April 2011, when ABiz’s sister pub The Independent published “Green Acres.” The investigative story named the retired radiation oncologist among a group of landowners exploiting a tax loophole that allowed him to pay exceedingly low property taxes on the prime commercial land he purchased for Parc Lafayette simply by stating that the property is devoted to agriculture (a single bale of hay would make it qualify). Incensed at what he viewed as an attack on his reputation, Stewart lashed out, taking Parc Lafayette along for the ugly ride.
His billboard spectacle featuring Independent Co-Publisher Cherry Fisher May’s mug shot from a 2010 DUI arrest and questioning why the paper did not report it — what likely amounted to an expenditure of upwards of $15,000 — is now legend in these parts. Bafflingly, he proudly plastered Parc Lafayette’s name across the glowing boards, saying they were paid for by the development; he similarly displayed a replica of the billboard on Parc Lafayette’s home page for months (only recently did we notice that it had come down).
|Boycotting Parc Lafayette’s shops hurts local businesses much more than developer Glenn Stewart himself.|
It’s difficult to imagine that Stewart has not been hurt by his own actions, as we have had people tell and email us that they will not shop at Parc Lafayette because of him. And we know some of those same people have even told Parc Lafayette tenants as much.
Advertising executive Julie Calzone is one of them. Calzone emailed two retailers to tell them she would not be shopping in their stores. “It’s no big secret. I tell everyone that,” she says. “I love the merchants over there, but I can’t support the shopping center,” Calzone tells ABiz. “I told them I wouldn’t be shopping there because of what the developer did, if he would treat [Fisher May] like that.” Calzone says one merchant responded to her email. “I got one response from a merchant who said they totally understood.”
On Feb. 17, ABiz reported online that the popular French bakery-bistro La Madeleine was scouting locations in Lafayette, also noting that real estate sources believed the company had settled on a location in Parc Lafayette. Should that happen, it would be a major coup for Stewart’s Parc Lafayette, which desperately needs restaurants to become the kind of lifestyle center he’s envisioned.
Four days after that story appeared, on Mardi Gras, Stewart punched Erin May Fitzgerald, the stepdaughter of the subject of these billboards, knocking her unconscious for several minutes.
Fitzgerald had attempted to remove an offensive banner about her stepmother from Stewart’s “Parc Lafayette” float. For more on the story, read the Feb. 29 issue of The Independent.
As soon as word of the assault spread, at least one local resident who asked not to be identified put in phone calls and an email to La Madeleine’s corporate office, notifying the company of the Mardi Gras incident and Stewart’s other bizarre tactics. It’s unclear whether Stewart’s felony battery charge and other erratic behavior will have any impact on La Madeleine’s site selection, but we hope that his irrational behavior and legal troubles do not affect local shoppers’ decision to patronize the independently owned stores located in the first phase of his development.
Those local business owners didn’t move into Parc Lafayette because of Stewart, and they should not be hurt by the poor decisions he has made.
|Glenn Stewart pulled his Parc Lafayette development into his ugly battle with The Independent; May’s mug appeared on the development’s website for months.|
When ABiz reported Feb. 7 on Paul Ayo’s new kitchenware store in Parc Lafayette (see “Turk File” in this issue), Bryan Fuselier, a supportive reader of The Ind and ABiz, had this to say: “Too bad. I really like to cook and love finding awesome kitchen supplies. It’s sad that I have to boycott this place just because they moved into that d-bag’s building.”
Another shot back: “Bryan, you will be hurting Ayo more than d-bag!!”
And he’s right. Boycotting Stewart’s Parc Lafayette is hurting small business owners more than Stewart himself. “The stores that are located in the shopping center are separate from the argument.
They have nothing to do with it,” Ayo says. “We’re just local business owners, trying to do good business and bring good products to the community.”
Ayo says he chose the location primarily because of its access to surrounding Acadiana cities. “There are major highways that lead directly to there. It’s not going to be hard for anybody to find,” he says.
“The developer of the shopping center is certainly separate from the businesses and entities within the shopping center. That should be separated, hopefully,” says Mike Armentor, who opened a location of Armentor Jewelers in Parc Lafayette late last year. “We’ve done what we could over our 72-year history to really be positive for the community in building a good reputation with our clients and our vendors and people around us. We don’t really want to be associated with anything negative, and hopefully my business and other businesses within the center can be judged on their own.”
Parc Lafayette also plans to construct an upscale hotel, and set to open in early March at the corner of Kaliste Saloom Road and Camellia Boulevard is Stewart’s high-end women’s department store, his own concept called La Marquise.
It remains to be seen what effect public reaction to recent events will have upon La Marquise.