GONZALES — Eight years after a development called Edenborne was approved as a mixed-use neighborhood off La. 44 in Gonzales, the residential and commercial portions remain absent and the city is waiting on the developer to provide needed infrastructure before anything new can happen.
The approximately 300-acre site near Interstate 10 currently boasts three “residents”:
— River Parishes Community College, which opened in 2014
— A training center for the Baton Rouge-based Alliance Safety Council, which also opened in 2014
— Emerson Process Management, a location of a St. Louis-based business serving industry, which moved into its facility in Edenborne this summer.
But the surrounding property remains open fields where the developers’ plans had included retail, offices, apartments and homes, and a theater.
Baton Rouge developer Tommy Spinoza, who joined Edenborne development as a manager last year, said in May that a plan was being developed for 100 acres of single-family residences, to be developed in phases, and that he expected construction on the homes to begin this year.
That won’t be happening, though, until the developer delivers on some major infrastructure.
In August, the city sent Edenborne Development LLC and its co-managers a letter, signed by the mayor, asking for the improvements.
“As you are aware, the city of Gonzales’ code of ordinances requires developers to install infrastructure in order to subdivide parcels of land,” the letter reads.
“The development team of Edenborne has been notified multiple times of the required infrastructure needs within the development. To date, several critical infrastructure items have not been constructed,” it says.
“Since the lack of required facilities poses a potential threat to public safety, the City of Gonzales will not accept for review or approval any resubdivision maps or building/structure plans for permit,” the letter, dated Aug. 20, says.
The work the city is waiting on is:
An updated traffic study approved by the Department of Transportation and Development.
Construction of the four-laned boulevard and roundabout on West Edenborne Parkway, the main street through the development. Currently, only one side of the boulevard is built and is being used as a two-lane street.
Construction of a 12-inch water line connecting River Parishes Community College to the city’s main water line at La. 44.
Completion and approval of a drainage study to properly model the current and proposed drain features, with post-development runoff.
“Certainly, we still think that’s going to be a wonderful project, but by the same token, we need these things done that are in the letter,” Mayor Barney Arceneaux said Friday.
“I’m in hopes we’re going to see something start developing very soon,” he said.
Earlier last week, Spinoza said, “We’re just making final plans complete.”
“Three significant property sales are under contract,” he said.
In regards to the infrastructure requested by the city, Spinoza said “plans for beautification projects at the front entrance and down the main roadway” are underway.
Originally scheduled for construction in 2008, Edenborne was caught in the economic slowdown of the next few years.
Over the last several years, the development lost some of its original investors, who were based in Michigan, and gained some local backers, including longtime NFL wide receiver Reggie Wayne, a New Orleans native.
Spinoza last week declined to confirm current investors, saying, “I don’t talk about other people’s interests.”
The Edenborne development weathered financial troubles in 2012, when it reached a financing agreement with First NBC Bank in New Orleans and paid off the project’s former lender, RBS Citizens, and paid back taxes.
It’s likely that Conway Plantation, a new traditional neighborhood planned across La. 44 from Edenborne, will be the first of the two developments to become a visible community.
In August, the Gonzales City Council gave the OK to Conway Plantation’s developer, Southern Lifestyle Development, to move ahead with phase one of the project.
That work will include 339 residential lots, as well as the construction on 43 acres of commercial sites and multifamily sites, with plans to break ground by the end of the year.
River Parishes Community College Chancellor Dale Doty said he, like others in the community, has waited for the next phase of Edenborne to begin.
Site plans of the Edenborne development show shops and office spaces across from the community college.
“The original concept with restaurants and shops would have been just fine” for students, Doty said.
He notes, however, that Ascension Parish plans to build a 1-mile road that will connect the Edenborne development to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
The expo center is situated off La. 30, a street that’s home to the Tanger Outlet Center and lined with businesses and restaurants.
The new road, when it comes, “will give our students another way out of here and access to Highway 30” businesses, Doty said.