An agency that helps fund public projects in Lafayette agreed Tuesday to boost three community undertakings, including a neighborhood garden envisioned by late entrepreneur, artist and community leader Jillian Johnson.
As a founding member of TownFolk and Acadiana Food Circle — two community organizations working to realize the project — the 33-year-old had planned the garden several years ago but never found an adequate home for it, TownFolk president Jennifer Doucet said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority.
“We feel like now is the right time to pick up this project again and carry out her vision,” Doucet said.
A gunman on July 23 killed Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, of Franklin, and injured nine other people inside a Lafayette movie theater in a tragedy that’s shaken the community and fostered massive outpourings of support for the victims.
LPTFA — a self-supporting agency that helps fund public projects with the money it makes through investments, financing and real estate holdings — agreed to a $1-a-year lease for the Victory Garden on an LPTFA-owned lot near the corner of Olivier and South Pierce streets. The agency also committed $1,500 to add the space to its insurance plan for six years.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture professor and TownFolk member Hector LaSala gave emotional testimony Tuesday in favor of the project, calling Johnson a pioneer in the movement to beautify and redevelop Lafayette’s deteriorated urban spaces.
“She created community everywhere she went,” LaSala said of Johnson. “We owe it her.”
Joseph “Tessie” Shelton also spoke highly of Johnson, recalling her as a fearless and vibrant community leader who developed relationships with her neighbors through a number of projects, like planting trees throughout the neighborhood and organizing clean-up efforts.
“It was amazing to see her work. She was always in front. We were always trying to catch up,” Shelton said.
TownFolk has already raised about $3,000 for the project. Lafayette landscaper Marcus Descant estimates it will cost about $20,000 to create a wholly edible garden that also will function as a quasi-park space. Descant is donating labor to plant and maintain the garden, and TownFolk is planning a number of fundraisers and a possible crowdsourcing venture to drum up more money to round out the remaining initial costs.
Another public space is getting money from the LPTFA after the body pledged to close an $18,000 gap for constructing a unique pavilion within a planned art garden on Camellia Boulevard’s greenspace.
UL-Lafayette architecture students are designing and building the “gridshell” pavilion near the corner of Camellia Boulevard and Mount Vernon Drive. The structure will be built from curved pieces of white oak wood thatched together in a grid, with tilted aluminum panels on top providing shelter from sun and rain.
“It’ll be one of the only ones in the world — one of the only ones in this country,” UL-Lafayette professor Geoff Gjertson, who’s in charge of the project, said Tuesday.
Students began building the $77,000 pavilion over the summer, and it should be complete by the end of the year. It’s the first structure for Camellia Boulevard’s planned art park, which is a project included in the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan.
Along with a $38,000 grant provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Acadiana Center for the Arts contributed about $10,000 toward the project. Students crowdsourced another $10,000.
The LPTFA on Tuesday also pledged $29,000 to the Alexandre Mouton House — also known as the Lafayette Museum — to defray costs for replacing the historical structure’s leaky roof.
“What we’re trying to do is preserve this diamond in Lafayette,” said museum member Ann Clark, one of a few women representing the Lafayette Museum Association at Tuesday’s meeting.
Built in 1818 by Jean Mouton, who’s credited as the founder of Lafayette and was father to Alexandre, the Mouton house provides an educational space to learn about the area’s cultural history. But each time it rains, museum workers have been covering the home’s 19th-century furniture and household items with plastic sheeting.
The Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission provided another $25,000 toward the repairs, through which a new metal roof, by early November, will cover the structure’s original wooden shingles.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.