Denham Springs is considering allowing residents to move into apartments above businesses, a change some city officials describe as a progressive move that could spur development.
The City Council is hosting a public meeting next month to discuss the proposed ordinance change, which was triggered by a request from a property owner in the antique district on North Range Avenue.
“I think it’s a great idea. … It’s a little bit progressive,” said Rick Foster, a city building official. “There’s no sense in not doing it.”
Those in favor of the change say allowing people to rent apartments and live over a business would increase foot traffic, reduce crime and contribute to nightlife.
Foster said he doesn’t expect the change, if it is approved, to immediately transform Denham Springs into an entertainment hot spot. But, he said, it will offer new options to developers.
Mayor Jimmy Durbin, who expects the ordinance to pass, said he hasn’t heard of any specific plans for new mixed-use buildings but wants to allow for the possibility. The change would allow existing businesses to build new upstairs apartments.
The property owner who petitioned for the change is worried she won’t be able to reap the benefits.
Jan Bennett, who owns three buildings on North Range Avenue in the antique district, said her second-floor spaces are a challenge to rent because businesses want visible storefronts and don’t want to contend with the logistics of hauling merchandise up and down stairs.
She approached the city about allowing residential renters but isn’t sure she can bring the property up to residential code even if the ordinance passes.
“My biggest concern is — what are they going to require of us to modernize it?” she said.
The focus of the proposed ordinance is on new construction, Durbin said. If passed, it will allow for residences to be built over businesses in commercially zoned areas throughout the city.
The City Council will host a public meeting to discuss the issue at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Municipal Building on Government Drive.