Construction is expected to begin by year’s end on the first phase of the planned central park at the 100-acre Horse Farm on Johnston Street in Lafayette, with a grand opening in 2018.
Lafayette Central Park Executive Director Elizabeth “E.B.” Brooks laid out the timeline at Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting in a project update.
She said more than $11 million has been raised to help pay for the first phase of the park. Construction is scheduled to begin in November or December, Brooks said.
The first phase will include a parking lot, a new entrance, a pond, a dog park, tree houses, walking trails, a farmers market pavilion and landscaping, among other things.
Construction of the first phase is expected to take from 12 months to 18 months.
The park would be built out in future phases as more funding is secured, Brooks said.
She said Lafayette Central Park, the nonprofit formed to oversee the building and management of the park, is still meeting with major donor prospects and will soon roll out a major public fundraising campaign.
Lafayette city-parish government purchased the Horse Farm from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for $5.8 million in 2012 and then leased the property to Lafayette Central Park.
The city’s agreement with the nonprofit calls on the council to sign off on the design of the park, which is expected to be finalized in a few months for the first phase.
The only concerns raised Tuesday came from Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who requested enhanced efforts to reach out to minority groups to diversify events at the property, which has been hosting farmers markets, musical performances and other activities in recent years.
Boudreaux, who is black, said he has been to events at the Horse Farm and noticed “there were not a lot of people who look like me.”
Boudreaux said he is excited about the possibilities for the park, “but it will be a failure if everyone does not feel welcome, wanted, invited, inspired, encouraged and feel like they have ownership of.”
The plan to build a central park there has its roots in a controversial proposal by former UL-Lafayette President Ray Authement to trade some of the property with commercial developers for land closer to the school’s main campus.
That idea was abandoned in 2006. Then-City-Parish President Joey Durel and UL-Lafayette President Joseph Savoie later negotiated a deal for the city to buy the property.