Located in the heart of Cajun country and less than 20 miles away from its urban neighbor Lafayette, Acadia Parish, Louisiana is home to a culturally diverse population and an agricultural-based economy. Known for its blended Cajun, German and French heritage, the parish hosts thousands of visitors to experience their cultural festivals including the Frog Festival, Germanfest, International Rice Festival and authentic Mardi Gras celebrations. But residents know these annual events are not enough to attract and retain the next generation of workforce to live and work in Acadia Parish, and they are ready to take action.
This strategy focuses on addressing workforce development, housing and cultural amenities throughout Acadia Parish. Each community’s project is designed to act as a catalyst for future economic growth in the region, but parish unity and support is essential for long-term success. Ultimately, this strategy strives to position Acadia Parish as an attractive place for to live, work, and play and is the key to success for community development and economic vitality of the region.
Community input is the foundation of every successful action plan strategy because residents know their community best. This placemaking action plan is based on the hopes and dreams of the people living in Acadia Parish. Through five visioning sessions, residents from Crowley, Rayne, Church Point, Iota and the Fifth Ward, contemplated what is missing, what is needed to attract and retain the next generation of workforce, and what would boost economic development opportunities in Acadia Parish.
Several concepts emerged from these visioning sessions, including:
- A co-working space
- A business incubator
- A healthy café
- Modern loft apartments
- A social club for live music and events
- A casual restaurant
- A community park with a splash pad and walking trail
- A Cajun dance hall
Residents believe these new social attractions will increase opportunities for community engagement, preserve their Cajun culture, and attract the next generation who are looking for a new place to live with modern amenities and lower cost of living.
A complete summary of the visioning sessions can be found in Appendix A.
CROWLEY: ENTERPRISE CENTER 2.0
Crowley’s Enterprise Center has remained largely vacant for many years yet is home to the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, two community action agencies and one small business. If the community wants to grow its existing businesses and create new ones, Crowley needs to pursue innovative options to support its emerging workforce and aspiring entrepreneurs.
RAYNE: SOCIAL CLUB
This historic Joy Theater opened in Rayne, Louisiana on November 16, 1946 and remained in operation through the mid-1970s. By 1974, the Joy Theater became financially insolvent and was converted to other uses by another business owner. The vacant Joy Theater is prime real estate located along the Old Spanish Trail Highway across from the Depot Square and in the heart of downtown. Although the Joy Theater has been the subject of local controversy for several years, the City of Rayne has an opportunity to capitalize on this piece of property and bring it back to life for generations to come.
CHURCH POINT: CARRIAGE HOUSE TAPROOM & EATERY
Limited dining options in Church Point have forced many residents to leave their community regularly to eat in Lafayette or elsewhere. For some business owners, this means leaving their community daily to meet with clients and spend their money outside of Church Point. To fill this culinary void, Church Point should open a restaurant on Main Street across from Café Maison. Formerly a department store for clothing, the building of interest has been vacant for years but is in excellent shape and located in prime real estate for redevelopment.
IOTA: COMMUNITY PARK
“YES, Town Park!” After the initial visioning session in Iota, this message could be seen on yard signs in front of homes all over town. This isn’t the first time Iota has considered building a town park, but with overwhelming support from local residents and no central location for adults and children alike to enjoy the outdoors, the Town of Iota is ready to take action. Located near the Veterans Pavilion is a well maintained, municipal-owned plot of land that is centrally-located and ideal for this type of project.
FIFTH WARD: CAJUN DANCE HALL
South Louisiana was once dotted with Cajun-inspired dancehalls in communities large and small — in fact, many communities had more than one. On Friday and Saturday nights, buildings that were often dormant all week would come roaring to life with music blaring, people dancing, and kids playing. Made popular around the time of the Civil War, dancehalls were a family affair and resembled house dances dating back to the 1700s including paid admission, food and drinks for sale, and insular community affairs.
ACADIA PARISH TALENT INCENTIVE PROGRAM
Attracting and retaining a talented workforce is one of the most pressing issues facing nearly every rural community. An increasing trend of young people are choosing where to live based on the amenities a place offers over job prospects, and the people moving to areas like Acadia Parish typically have an existing connection to the area (e.g., family lives there). Keeping people in the parish can be even more challenging if the region’s communities do not begin to offer the housing options and amenities desired. Acadia Parish must ask itself: what entices people to live here and stay here?
REGIONAL BRAND AND MARKETING
Regional branding efforts are becoming increasingly popular as smaller cities and regions lose populations to urban centers. Branding a region is no different than branding a product: you want to create a sense of personal identity using something that is distinctive or compelling.
Compiled here is a list of various funding opportunities for Acadia Parish to consider when raising funds to implement and operate the projects included in this action plan. Fortunately for the Capital Campaign Committee, the Acadiana Planning Commission (APC) has been engaged in this planning process from the beginning and will prove to be instrumental when applying for public sector funding and helping execute these projects.