Jefferson Parish is getting a jump on planning the future of a roughly 8,500-acre swath of largely undeveloped land on the West Bank known as Fairfield, with a study underway to guide the tract’s development in the coming decades and to map out infrastructure needed to minimize growing pains.

The idea for the planning study, requested by the parish and led by the Regional Planning Commission, goes back a few years, to when the now-completed expansion of the Huey P. Long Bridge was getting underway.

The Fairfield area already contained the TPC Louisiana golf course, the Alario Center and the recently created Churchill Technology & Business Park, and the prospect of a stronger connection to East Jefferson — coupled with the lack of any other large, developable tracts of land elsewhere in the parish — put it in the spotlight.

“It was really at the time of the planning of the Huey P. that we really started to set our sights on the West Bank as the future of Jefferson Parish,” said Jerry Bologna, executive director of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission .

Bologna said that while East Jefferson has land for redevelopment opportunities, such as Metairie’s Fat City and Kenner’s Laketown district, “in terms of having vast green space where you can go in and plan things and develop it in a cohesive manner, the Fairfield area offered us the best opportunity to do so.”

So last year, the parish came up with a partial match for federal Smart Growth Grant money the RPC had in hand, and together they hired consultants and formed a committee that includes representatives from JEDCO and the dozen or so property owners in the area.

The group, which includes representatives not just from existing developments like the NOLA Motorsports Group and TPC Louisiana but also major landowners including Marrero Land and the Wainer Companies, has met about a half-dozen times this year.

Jefferson Parish Planning Director Terri Wilkinson said consultants have focused on issues of land use and zoning, public infrastructure and utilities, and water management, while the stakeholders have provided their input on what kinds of potential developments are suitable and would complement one another.

Bologna said well-planned, mixed-use developments such as Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge and River Ranch in Lafayette can serve as models.

“That’s what a lot of people are looking for,” he said. “They want walkable communities and to be able to coexist with commercial space.”

Bologna said JEDCO, which already bet on Fairfield by placing its own headquarters and the nascent Churchill business park there, thinks retail, office and warehouse development is likely to cross the bridge to the West Bank tract.

Also, he said, the planned Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, gearing up for its first race next year at NOLA Motorsports, plus rising enrollment at the Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy and Delgado Community College’s planned maritime-industry-oriented River City Campus all bode well for Fairfield.

Delgado’s $15 million campus, which could bring in 3,000 students to the area every week, is expected to open at Churchill in 2016.

“We think this is our chance to really do this in the right way,” Bologna said.

Wilkinson said the planning process is looking to build off of the existing recreation-based options in Fairfield while protecting the integrity of adjacent residential communities and complementing nearby environmental amenities such as Bayou Segnette State Park.

“The parish is keenly interested in developing this area well,” Wilkinson said. “We think what has been developed there (already) is very high-quality development, and the goal is to continue that and plan it wisely and with standards that promote high quality.”

The committee has come up with three scenarios, each of which balances residential development of varying degrees of density with spaces reserved for commercial, industrial and recreational development.

In every scenario, the existing subdivision along South Jamie Boulevard, which extends south from U.S. 90 into the center of Fairfield, would be lined with a buffer of medium-density residential or neighborhood mixed-use development.

  • The first scenario would designate almost a third of the space on the eastern side of the tract as “environmental mixed use,” consisting of environmentally friendly subdivisions and low-intensity recreational and hospitality uses that would support ecotourism. The south side of U.S. 90, which is Fairfield’s northern border, would be lined with 2,000 acres of neighborhood mixed-use development on the western half of the tract and 400 acres of commercial and residential mix on the eastern side. The areas around NOLA Motorsports would be zoned for business and industrial parks.
  • The second planning scenario would zone most of the western half of Fairfield as neighborhood mixed-use, along with portions in the northeast and southeast corners. Only a small portion of the northwest corner would be for “environmental mixed use,” though just under 1,800 acres around the NOLA Motorsports track would be zoned for regional recreation, along with about 1,100 acres zoned for business and industrial parks. There would be three separate districts totaling about 800 acres where denser residential and commercial development would be mixed in together.
  • The third scenario leaves the western and southern portions of the tract — about half of the total space — as environmental mixed-use, with about 1,000 acres around NOLA Motorsports for regional recreation. About 1,500 acres fronting U.S. 90 on the west side of the existing subdivision would be neighborhood mixed use, while 845 acres along the highway on the east side would be zoned for community mixed use, which is the denser, more urban-style mix of residential and commercial development. More neighborhood mixed use makes up the eastern border of Fairfield in the third scenario, and NOLA Motorsports is surrounded by land zoned for business and industrial parks.

The third scenario includes a zoning designation not included in the others: a 154-acre “corporate campus” in the center of the eastern half. That campus is defined as a walkable mix of employment and support services managed by a single corporate entity, sometimes with light restaurant and retail development.

Wilkinson said the committee will come up with its preferred scenario — likely a blend of elements in the three it has come up with so far — and present it to the Planning Advisory Board. The Planning Commission would then make a recommendation to the Jefferson Parish Council, likely in the first part of 2015.

If approved by the council, the plan would be integrated into Envision 2020, the parish’s comprehensive plan.

Wilkinson said a separate document outlining Fairfield’s infrastructure needs and recommending where roads should be built throughout the interior also will be part of the plan.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.