Motorists travel along North University Avenue Tuesday, Janurary 30, 2018, in Lafayette, La.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation is providing $10 million to finish the final two phases of the University Avenue improvement project, Sen. Bill Cassidy’s office announced.

The money, a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant, will fund construction of a “multi-modal corridor” along North University Avenue, with the goals of reducing congesting, increasing safety and improving access to nearby neighborhoods, according to a press release.

Lafayette Consolidated Government has already spent $7.3 million on the project.

The BUILD grant is the culmination of a multi-year planning process that began with a citizen-led Better Block Four Corners event in 2016. Better Block Four Corners was a partnership between Bridge Ministry, Townfolk, and the LaPlace Coterie and was designed to show what a revitalized University Corridor at four corners could look like from the perspective of those who live there.

In 2017, LCG was awarded a $500,000 urban systems planning grant from the Acadiana Metropolitan Planning Organization to conduct a corridor study to improve safety and to help revitalize University Avenue from its intersection at Four Corners north to its intersection with Interstate 10.

Additional community meetings were conducted at Bridge Ministry and other neighborhood sites, where residents gave their vision for the revitalized corridor. Recommendations from the corridor study resulted in the creation of both a state cultural district and the formation of the University Economic Development District. At the same time as the transportation corridor planning effort, the Acadiana Planning Commission was awarded a $300,000 EPA assessment grant to identify and assess potential brownfields sites along the same corridor.

These joint planning efforts attracted HRI to invest and redevelop the block that contained the LessPay Motel and the historic Lafayette Coca-Cola Bottling Plant. The resulting $37 million investment has resulted in the demolition of the blighted LessPay property and will result in the creation of 110 units of workforce housing with a leasing preference for working artists.

The total cost of the University Corridor improvements is expected to be just over $30 million, according to Pat Lewis, who represents City Council District 1, which encompasses the corridor. The combined committed investment to date along the University Corridor approaches $70 million, a historic level for North Lafayette, Lewis said in a prepared statement.

Acadiana Business Today: Feds kick in $10 million for University Avenue corridor project

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