Lafayette Aims to Improve Downtown Safety and Cleanliness

Lafayette's Downtown Development Authority CEO Kevin Blanchard announces plans to improve safety and cleanliness, targeting underage drinking and homelessness. Initiatives include a city ordinance, neighbor-to-neighbor program, and improved services for the homeless community.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Lafayette Aims to Improve Downtown Safety and Cleanliness

Lafayette Aims to Improve Downtown Safety and Cleanliness

Kevin Blanchard, the new CEO of the Downtown Development Authority in Lafayette, Louisiana, has announced plans to make downtown safer and cleaner. His initiatives include a city ordinance targeting underage drinking, a neighbor-to-neighbor program, and improved services for the homeless community.

Why this matters: Efforts to address safety and cleanliness in downtown areas can have a significant impact on the local economy and community, as they can influence visitor numbers and business investment. By tackling issues like underage drinking and homelessness, cities can create a more welcoming and attractive environment for residents and visitors alike.

Since taking the helm three months ago, Blanchard has been fielding complaints about the nightlife in downtown Lafayette, an issue that has persisted for over two decades. In 2000, a noise ordinance was implemented, followed by a moratorium on new bar permits in 2003. This was replaced in 2018 with a conditional use permitting process, which Blanchard says is working well.

The maximum capacity of bars and nightclubs downtown has decreased from 5,300 in 2018 to 3,100 today, without significant opposition. "This is what managed nightlife looks like... Not that that number went down, but that that number went down and you never heard about it at all," Blanchard remarked. Despite this progress, complaints about nightlife have increased, which Blanchard attributes to the district's diversification and growth.

To address safety concerns, a plan is underway to improve lighting at downtown parks and secondary streets. Blanchard is also working with the Lafayette City Council to give officers more discretion in enforcing noise violations and to increase penalties for underage drinking and selling alcohol to minors.

The recent tragic death of 19-year-old Madison Brooks in Baton Rouge has spurred public outcry and action by the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. City leaders are now considering a crackdown on underage drinking. "Why should Lafayette wait for tragedy to strike to do the same?" Blanchard questioned.

Blanchard is seeking support from downtown stakeholders to address the issue of underage drinking and make it a citywide effort. Additionally, Catholic Charities of Acadiana has been developing a plan to better serve the homeless community, which will beannouncedthis summer.

With these initiatives, Blanchard is confident in tackling the challenges facing downtown Lafayette. "We have done big things. We continue to do big things, and so we're going to do this big thing,"he asserted. The Downtown Development Authority, under Blanchard's leadership, is poised to make significant strides in improving safety and cleanliness for residents andvisitorsalike.