November 2012

The nearly 6-decade-old Winnwood Shopping Center is undergoing a major facelift — the new version having as much sex appeal as curb appeal, retro in style and boasting touches of  mid-century modern architectural forms. Think Jane Jetson visits Mel’s Diner.

Winnwood Shopping Center has been a retail anchor in what is now Lafayette’s Midtown since May of 1955, when Dwight Andrus Sr. hooked up with Dr. W.S. Hornsby to develop the veterinarian’s family acreage at the corner of Johnston Street and Bertrand Drive. At the time, Lafayette shoppers’ sole option was downtown, and Andrus’ only development experience was building homes for returning WWII veterans and their young families.

WinnWood Post Card copy
A vintage photo of Winnwood Center

“My grandfather’s background until then was residential,” explains Reed Andrus, now at the helm of the family’s real estate holdings. “Doc was watching what the Landry family was building across the street [at South College Center, still Landry-owned] and convinced my grandfather to try his hand at a commercial project.” A&P Supermarket was the first tenant. The rest, as they say, is local legend.

In the decades to follow, Andrus Sr. diversified permanently and brought his son, Dwight Jr., home from college to help with the burgeoning family business, steadily developing neighborhoods, office parks and shopping centers on Lafayette’s south side. But Winnwood was never off the project list. Pitt Grill (now Mel’s Diner) was added in 1957. Retail space adjacent to the anchor tenants followed over time.

In the early ’60s, First National Bank (now Chase) built a free standing, round, brick-and-glass branch in the parking lot. Later, FNB’s iconic building was razed and the bank moved into the center proper to accommodate drive-thru customers. Reed’s generation eventually bought Winnwood and renovated in ’87 and ’92. This will be the third facelift in almost 60 years for the center, but the new version has as much sex appeal as curb appeal, retro in style boasting touches of mid-century modern architectural forms. Think Jane Jetson visits Mel’s Diner.

Mel's Corner Night
Rendering by WHLC Architecture
The multi-million dollar project was designed by Washer Hill Lipscomb & Cabaniss of Baton Rouge, the same firm tapped for the retro-fit at Lafayette General. “We were impressed by their ability to transform buildings while they are still in use,” says Reed, stressing the importance for a property that is 80 percent occupied with additional leases currently in negotiation.

The third-generation Andrus, who has been an advocate of a revival of Johnston Street, feels a responsibility to re-invest in the central city. The plan is to bore under Johnston to tap into electrical sources on the other side and to eliminate overhead wiring on Winnwood. He aspires to get rid of all the aerial pollution near the center, including wires to the traffic signal at Bertrand. That will require a public-private solution. “We want to show a leadership role of investing in the revitalization of Johnston Street,” he says. “This goes to vision and to wanting to have a better city.”

Features of the Winnwood Renaissance
•  monument signage with hi-def LED reader board
•  higher profile facades
•  low profile lighting
•  semi-tropical landscaping
•  elevated sidewalk canopy
•  stainless steel accents
•  curbs on Johnston Street

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