There is an interesting economic duality happening in Lafayette Parish.

A curious explosion of economic activity and economic distress are happening in Lafayette Parish only an exit apart. While the north side of the city of Lafayette continues to economically wither, especially after the closing of the Walmart on Evangeline Thruway, the northern section of Lafayette Parish is growing.

Why is this happening? Some point to the building of the Super 1 Foods in Carencro as the spark that started this boom, while others point to the Stirling Lafayette Shopping Center on Louisiana Avenue at Interstate 10 as the test case that proved there was a place for this growth in the northern parts of the parish. However, the resulting construction, both commercial and residential, have been apparent to anyone who drives down Interstate 49.

“We finally got Super 1 opened in 2011 and that store just started the whole boom," Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux said. "Five years later, Walmart opened and once that came, it’s just retail and restaurants everywhere. The thing that got everyone’s attention I think was when the Lowe’s moved where it did and did as well as it did; it really opened people’s eyes that businesses could do well on the north side of Lafayette.”

From new restaurants to new businesses in the new shopping centers along the highway, the economic growth in the area is apparent. New stores, restaurants and other businesses are popping up along the frontage roads along I-49 regularly.

In 2010, before the Super 1 Foods was built, retail sales in the Carencro was just over $98 million, according to data from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. In 2018, that figure jumped to $240 million, nearly a 143 percent increase, a jump that was tops among the parish's municipalities during that nine-year span. 

Brasseaux said the service roads along I-49 have been a major part of the economic boom, pointing to the growth along the frontage roads built in Scott along Interstate 10 as another example of this phenomenon. As to why the boom happened so much later after the roads were built in comparison to Scott, Brasseaux attributes that simply to landowners' refusal to develop or sell their land for many years, stunting that growth until that changed recently.

This is one of the key reasons that Geoff Pearson, owner of local video game store Play N Trade for more than 11 years, to open a new location in Carencro off I-49 at 200 Hector Connoly Road this May.

“Everyone was always saying I should expand to Youngsville, but the demographics and location are much better in Carencro," Pearson said. "There’s also been a lot of growth north of the city, and I think that people don’t want to get off the highway and drive through Lafayette to go shopping, which is something Carencro can offer.”

The retail growth has paralleled the home construction in the area. Since 2014, between 134 and 147 new homes have been constructed every year, according to data compiled by Bill Bacque and Market Scope Consulting, while sales of existing homes have increased from 459 to 517.

In 2018, the areas north of U.S. 90 and Carmel Drive in Lafayette had 651 homes sold, nearly 20 percent of all home sales for the year in the parish, according to real estate data. Only central and southern sections of the parish had more percentage-wise.

Southern Lifestyle Development, the company behind River Ranch, Sugar Mill Pond and numerous other neighborhoods across Louisiana, has also started work in north Lafayette Parish in recent years with its newest traditional neighborhood, Couret Farms, and two conventional neighborhoods, Woodland Trail and Estates at Moss Bluff.

Couret Farms, located on West Pont des Mouton Road west of I-49, will have 400 single-family homes and 180 apartments when completed in four years, while Woodland Trail, just west of University Drive near St. Anne Street, has 59 lots. The Estates at Moss Bluff, off Moss Street east of I-49, is a partnership with DSLD Homes and will have 229 homes.

According to Robert Daigle, managing partner of Southern Lifestyle Development, the historical data didn’t look great for north Lafayette when the company started looking into developing there around 2014. The company was hesitant to expand there. However, after discussing it with community leaders, the developer decided to take a chance, especially after seeing the success of the Stirling Lafayette Shopping Center.

“Historically, the northern part of the parish has not had a lot of positive development,” Daigle said. “For years, retailers have all gone south or central Lafayette and ignored the north and that had to do with the income demographics, and I think what Sterling Properties, who developed that center, proved was that there’s a pent-up demand on the northern part of the parish. I think that was the impetus that caused everybody to take a second look at north Lafayette Parish.”

With the growth and the new sales tax revenue, Carencro is expanding its sewer and water systems to keep up with the growth. New water, sewer and sludge treatment plants are in development with space to expand in the future, including a $25 million project for a new sewer plant behind the community center that will be going to bid in September.

“We’ve been spending a fortune on infrastructure, and once these plants are finished, we should be good sewer-wise for a number of decades," Brasseaux said. "I’m excited about our future, and there’s no signs right now of it slowing down,” Brasseaux said.

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