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Downtown Lafayette needs a lot more housing, study says

Lafayette Journal & Courier, Jeong Park

July 26, 2018

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(Photo: John Terhune/Journal & Courier)

LAFAYETTE – Downtown Lafayette will need to have 550 to 800 more housing units by 2022 to meet the demands of the growing population, according to a study commissioned by the city.

The study also says more housing is needed for older professionals and empty nesters, who are looking to downsize their homes and move into the area where restaurants and other amenities are accessible by foot.

Two firms – MKSK and Greenstreet – presented their draft study to the Lafayette Redevelopment Commission Thursday. The firms will finalize the study in the next few months.

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The firms analyzed public data and talked with community stakeholders. They said Lafayette’s growth potential remains strong.

“Lafayette is one of the brighter spots in the state,” said Eric Lucas, a consultant with MKSK. Lucas had also worked on the State Street master plan and the Five Points study.

The study presented three scenarios for housing: Low potential, moderate potential and high potential.

Even in the low potential scenario and accounting for 266 units in future inventory from existing developments such as the MARQ, Downtown Lafayette will need to have 550 more housing units by 2022, the study said.

About 40 percent of the demand will come from older professionals and empty nesters moving into the downtown, which Lucas said has been part of a national trend of older residents moving into urban areas.

About 45 percent of the demand will come from young professionals, the study said.

As those populations are more likely to rent apartments, the study recommended the downtown to have more mid- to upper-density mixed-use projects. Having mixed-use projects will enable the downtown to have a constant stream of people, Lucas said.

The study identified three sites for potential high-rise (up to 16 stories) mixed-use project: 500 North 3rd Street near the CityBus Center, 53 South 2nd Street across the Social Security Administration building and 10 South Second St., the SSA building itself.

The study also called for more outdoor dining, especially on Main Street, as well as more public restroom, open spaces and a potential bike corridor on South Street.

Dennis Carson, Lafayette’s economic development executive director, said the area’s streets can handle the increase in traffic. But he agreed with the study saying the area needs more parking, especially within new developments.

Some sites, such as the Lafayette Sanitation Department building, will be easier for developments as the city consolidates its facilities off McCarty Lane.

“(But in other cases), all this will hinge upon whoever owns the property,” Carson said.

Carson and Lucas urged caution against taking the study as a mandate. A sudden recession, for instance, may reshape the city’s plan, Lucas said.

“This (study) is to spark the imagination of the city and the development community,” Lucas said.

The commission also heard from Mark O’Neall, an associate with Greenstreet, which is examining the housing demand and supply across Tippecanoe County. That study is to be presented by next spring.

Contact Journal & Courier reporter Jeong Park at 765-420-5339, jpark@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter: @jeongpark52.

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