KENNER, La. — A new plan could inject life into Kenner’s struggling Esplanade Mall as well as Rivertown.
Tuesday night, more than one hundred people packed into Heritage Hall to get a better idea of the lifeline proposed for the two sites.
Kenner resident Lauren Gauthier said, “For this to finally be on people’s radar and this is actually something where action will be taken, people are very excited about that.”
Gauthier lives near the mall and is thrilled to hear it could be redeveloped into a mixed use community. The plans call for anchors like Target, the movie theater and church to stay.
“It’s going to make the area a lot more attractive and it’s a huge area with a lot of square footage they have to deal with,” Gauthier said.
Thomas Walsh with TSW, an architecture and planning firm in Atlanta, is the consultant on the project.
“You would have single family detached housing, you would have town homes. You’d also have mixed use with commercial on the bottom floor and residential above sort of like the French Quarter,” Walsh said.
As for Rivertown, the focus would be to also increase housing options while highlighting the river and historic area. The consulting firm suggest building riverfront condos and expanding green space.
“We want this to be a way that helps the community that’s here and not displace them, but actually encourages them to stay and develop within this area,” Walsh said.
For years, Rivertown and The Esplanade Mall have struggled to see new growth. In fact, one of the anchor stores, Macy’s has sat vacant in recent years. Right now, the property is listed for more than 5-million dollars. If the proposed development goes through, it could mean lots of new tax revenue for Kenner.
Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn said, “The City of Kenner is very, very dependent on sales tax and the more sales tax we bring in, the better it is for the City of Kenner.”
One Kenner real estate agent believes the redevelopment would solve a major housing need in Kenner.
“We need more inventory and we just don’t have the ground like everywhere else because we are surrounded by water. This is a great place to develop and we need it. We need some new life,” said Sharon Kochera.
Some residents though are concerned how redeveloping could impact minority communities. One man is hopeful deeper conversations will continue.
“I’m for progress, but let’s see the details,” said Roger Perkins.
TSW’s study of the area took nearly a year and cost $180,000. It was funded through a grant to the city. Mayor Ben Zahn is pledging the conversations will continue and they want as much feedback as possible.
Final recommendations will be made to the city council on August 5.