The St. Francisville Area Foundation hosted a series of small public meetings on Nov. 18 to begin a dialogue on future development of the area fronting the Mississippi River.

The SFAF has partnered with the Baton Rouge-based Center for Planning Excellence to help facilitate the meetings, which were held with representatives from various segments of the community such as historical preservation, tourism, real estate and retail.

Created in 1998, the SFAF supports initiatives to protect, restore and enhance the natural beauty, cultural charm and quality of life for the West Feliciana Parish communities. It is governed by a nine-member board of directors.

Lauren Field, executive director of the foundation, said the purpose of the meetings is to begin informal communication to develop a strategy for helping the community reconnect St. Francisville’s town center to the Mississippi River through river tourism, redevelopment and strategic urban planning.

“We don’t have a concept yet, we would like to see what the community would like to see in that area,” Field said. “The community is very passionate about what they want and don’t want.”

Haley Blakeman, director of implementation for CPEX, outlined an ambitious timeline for developing a comprehensive plan. It includes researching through the end of the year and site visits after the first of the year to river towns such as Vidalia; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee. Then, a conceptual design will be created followed by meetings with community stakeholders by March and April.

“We want to preserve and protect the natural beauty of the area because the community is very passionate about it,” Field said.

She said the SFAF envisions the redevelopment to potentially include the old canning facility site, the Julius Freehand building and school board property, the abandoned old school facility on Pecan Grove and the proposed location for riverboat docking on the Mississippi River.

The redevelopment could capitalize on the growing river cruise industry and its potential economic impact on the area. At this point, CPEX and the SFAF are looking at housing, recreation, civic and commercial uses and market demand for the area.

“We’re appealing to different components of the community to make this a viable project,” Field said.

For information, visit www.stfrancisvilleaf.org or contact Field at executivedirector@stfrancisvilleaf.org.