DENHAM SPRINGS — Years after it was first envisioned, Juban Crossing has opened for business.
Wednesday morning, hundreds of shoppers stretched around the building where the Belk store conducted its ribbon-cutting. In the coming weeks, a dozen more retailers are slated to host grand openings.
When the 471-acre development is completed — years down the road — it is planned to feature parks, shops and restaurants, hundreds of apartments, and a subdivision filled with single-family homes.
Livingston Parish residents on Wednesday expressed excitement for the new stores, in a location closer to home where they won’t have to fight through Baton Rouge traffic.
“This is big. This is going to be nice for Livingston people,” shopper Mary Duplessis said.
“It’s going to bring money and jobs. ... We needed something like this here, closer to the community.”
Despite the growth along Juban Road, retailers in Baton Rouge shouldn’t be alarmed, according to commercial real estate agents.
“I really don’t think it will have a negative impact on the Mall of Louisiana,” Stirling Properties real estate broker Dottie Tarleton said.
She doesn’t expect Siegen Lane or Millerville Road stores to feel a pinch either.
PetSmart has a location on Millerville already and launched a soft opening of a new store at Juban Crossing on Monday. The company wouldn’t cannibalize its own profits, so the market must be large enough to support the new site, she explained.
Baton Rouge and Livingston Parish populations are on the rise, and look to continue to grow in the coming years, she said.
“I wouldn’t guess any Baton Rouge retailers would really feel any effects (of Juban Crossing openings),” said commercial real estate agent Jonathan Walker, of Maestri-Murrell, Inc.
“I think the growth will be there. ... Retail follows the household growth.”
The Mall of Louisiana already has “very high” sales per square foot, so even if shoppers from Denham Springs and elsewhere defect to the new stores, retailers won’t see a big dent in their bottom lines, he said. The Mall of Louisiana also has enough unique specialty stores to draw suburban shoppers back.
Cortana Mall, meanwhile, tries to capture a different market, Walker said, and he does not see it directly competing with Juban Crossing shops. Nor does he expect Hammond retailers miles away to see much of an effect of the stores.
It’s been nearly a decade since developers began the first talks that would lead to Juban Crossing.
Plans started in 2005, and the land was purchased the following year, said Stephen Keller, principal of Houston-based Creekstone Companies, the site developer.
The national recession halted plans for the next few years as retailers balked at expansion. Tenants began returning a few years ago, and the first phase of stores broke ground in October 2013, Keller said.
Currently, Rouses, Ulta, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ross, Shoe Carnival, PetSmart, Lane Bryant, Old Navy, Michaels, TJ Maxx, Academy, Great American Cookie and Marble Slab are set to open by Black Friday.
On Wednesday, the shopping center buzzed with the sounds of steamrollers, bulldozers and dump trucks, as crews worked on stores in various states of construction. One building was still covered in scaffolding, while next door teams were building product displays inside, as crews across the street poured asphalt for the parking lot. A few future restaurants exist only as designs on paper.
Construction is slated to finish in waves through 2018, Keller said.
The developer also plans to build apartments with around 350 units, as well as approximately 500 single-family homes to the west of the shopping center.
He hopes to begin completing apartments in 2016, and have the first of the houses ready for 2017 move-ins.
The plans for the site also include public spaces such as parks and possibly an amphitheater, though specifics are still being decided.
At the ribbon-cutting, Keller spoke briefly to parish leaders of the Juban Crossing’s nine-year development.
“You believed in that vision even when months and years went by and times got tough,” he said.
“I can’t tell you how elated I am to finally see this day.”