Gonzales residents wanting to catch a movie or go bowling could soon do so without having to leave Ascension Parish.
A developer would like to convert a former Walmart store on Airline Highway in Gonzales into an entertainment complex of movie screens, a bowling alley and even an arcade and laser tag game facility.
“There’s a demand for movies by people that live in Ascension Parish that’s not being met,” said Mike Eades, president and CEO of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., an economic development organization in Ascension Parish.
The AEDC is recommending that the Gonzales City Council consider an incentive package approved Monday by the AEDC board of directors to help bring the project to life.
The board did not name the prospective developer, and it’s not yet clear how many movie screens or alleys are proposed, Eades said, adding the project is still in the planning stage.
However, the AEDC estimates that the renovation and facility upgrade on the 61,000-square-foot building near Airline Highway and La. 44 will cost about $5.4 million.
The new businesses could add some 70 jobs to the area, even though the majority of these would be part-time employment, say economic development officials.
The AEDC will recommend the city council approve a combination of economic incentives for the project starting with a 2 cent sale and use tax rebate on investments made by the tenants.
“That would be like the fixtures and actual bowling alleys and that sort of thing,” Eades said. This rebate is estimated at $57,900. The AEDC is also recommending that the project participate in the Restoration Tax Abatement program, which is managed by the state’s office of economic development.
This program forgives property tax for five years on the improvements to the property. This program’s cost to Gonzales is estimated to be $8,000 to $16,000, according to AEDC documents.
The city would still continue to collect property tax based on the building’s original assessment.
“It’s freezing it,” said Deanna Lafont, director of business development at AEDC. “It’s not taking away taxes that they’re already receiving.”
The project was endorsed by the economic development board primarily for the business activity it could mean for Gonzales, but also because it means removing an empty building from the landscape.
“It’s taking a building that’s sitting there doing nothing and giving it a new use,” said Bill Dawson, who chairs of the AEDC.