Plans for Elmwood Site

The transition of Elmwood Shopping Center into an development anchored with new residences, retail and dining choices took a key step forward Wednesday (Oct. 10) when the Jefferson Parish Councilapproved the creation of a special economic development district. Doing so will allow the Lauricella Land Co., which owns the sprawling property, to begin the process of seeking tax breaks for their plans.

Managing member Louis Lauricella told council members the company is already seeking new commercial tenants for the re-imagined form of the 43-year-old shopping center. Its 10-year phased construction schedule calls for 500 apartment units and "upgrades" to its shopping and restaurant tenants, he said.

Currently a massive strip mall with outparcels along Clearview Parkway -- and acres of uninterrupted parking lots -- the new development, dubbed simply Elmwood, will be tied together with landscaped pedestrian paths and improved streets.

Parish officials are also expected to make sure the redevelopment addresses storm water management, given the frequency of street flooding in the area. Lauricella told council members the company intends to include retention features in its designs, calling it "the high point of what we're doing."

In order to realize those plans, Lauricella asked the council to designate the property as Elmwood Economic Development District No. 1. The council's approval is the first step toward negotiations over a tax increment financing (TIF) district, which would allow Jefferson Parish to divert sales tax revenue the shopping center site generates back to the developer.

The TIF proceeds will be used for infrastructure on the site, including traffic flow improvements, Lauricella said. The told reporters the planned work also includes an upgrade for the intersection of Citrus Boulevard and Elmwood West Drive, the street leading to the AMC Elmwood Palace 20 theaters that will also undergo enhancements.

The amount of money needed for the infrastructure work hasn't been determined at this point, Lauricella said. His company is interested only in the parish sales tax revenue that goes toward the parish's general fund, he said, not the portions dedicated to law enforcement and public education. Because a large chunk of general fund revenue goes toward streets and drainage, Lauricella said it makes sense for that money to be put directly into the development.

"Everything we are doing here is to generate more sales taxes for Jefferson Parish," Lauricella told council members.

The next stage of Elmwood Shopping Center's overhaul will continue a transformation that began a decade ago as the nearby Huey P. Long Bridge was being expanded. Anticipating more shoppers with easier access to East Jefferson, Lauricella Land Co. fleshed out the strip center's outparcels with a slate of new shops and restaurants.

The residential component of its next phase will be built where Kmart had been a longtime tenant. A buyout of the struggling retailer's lease, along with facade updates and other work to bring on new tenants, was part of a $10 million investment Lauricella Land Co. made in its property.

The vision for Elmwood is modeled after Avalon, a mixed-used development in Alpharetta, Georgia, that includes 350 homes and rental units, a theater and 500,000 square feet of retail space.

There is an unmet demand for new residential units in East Jefferson, Lauricella said, pointing to occupancy at the Bella Ridge Apartments as an example. The 264-unit complex 1st Lake Properties developed is just a few blocks behind the shopping center. Lauricella said 60 percent of its tenants are "older" because they enjoy its parking deck that gives them same-level access to their apartments.

A similar deck is planned for the Elmwood Shopping Center site.

"When you have consolidation of all these goods and services, entertainment, you're going to have these older people moving to Elmwood, freeing up homes for younger people to move to Jefferson Parish," Lauricella said.

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