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The city of Gonzales recently purchased the property for the Price LeBlanc Performing Arts, Conference and Events Center in the Heritage Crossing development coming to La. 44 and La. 30. 

The city of Gonzales took two giant steps in recent weeks toward having a performing arts and conference center: buying a 5-acre site in early July and then applying for an $8.5 million construction loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.   

If the loan is approved some time this fall, as the city hopes, ground could be broken for the Price LeBlanc PACE Center next spring, Scot Byrd, the city's chief administrative officer, said Thursday. 

"The reason we're hoping we'll be able to use the USDA Rural Development loan program is that they offer 40-year financing and they have pretty good interest rates," Byrd said. "It's 2.75% right now and we're hoping it will stay at that level until the closing on the loan."

The city would repay the loan with revenues from a 2% hotel occupancy tax voters approved in 2018. 

Gonzales purchased the property for the new center for $1.5 million from Double D of Louisiana, the developer of the 103-acre Heritage Crossing mixed-use community at La. 44 and La 30, where groundwork is now underway. 

The performing arts, conference and events center will be built in the main square of Heritage Crossing, next to a lake. 

The city used capital outlay funds to make the property purchase, Byrd said, and is expecting to replace those funds through the loan, as well as through a $1.5 million donation made to the city for the center by the Price LeBlanc family.

The city will receive the donation in portions, when construction on the center begins, when it's well underway and when it's completed, under the agreement with the family of the noted automobile dealer, Byrd said.

Clay Stafford, president of the Double D development company, said last week the majority of the drainage pipe is now in the ground at Heritage Crossing and that construction is expected to begin on the first two multi-tenant retail buildings by the end of August. 

"We're lining up our anchors and feel very good about that," he said. 

Heritage Crossing, described by developers as a walkable community, will bring residences, restaurants, retail, offices and a hotel to the corner of the intersection of the two heavily traveled state highways.

The architect for the Price LeBlanc PACE Center is Domain Architecture of Baton Rouge.

Byrd said the contractor will be chosen either by the traditional request for quotes and bid process or by a process called "construction management at risk" (CMAR), in which a construction manager would be named by a review board and tasked with keeping the design and building of the center within budget; the construction manager would be financially liable if costs exceeded the budget.  

Gonzales will be seeking the approval of the state for the authority to use the CMAR method, if it chooses to, Byrd said; the approval is required for public entities undertaking public works projects, he said. 

Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, who was recently re-elected without opposition to a fourth term in office, said the new performing arts and conference center "is going to be one of the highlights of my career."

Email Ellyn Couvillion at ecouvillion@theadvocate.com.