Proposals for redevelopment of Westmoreland center in Mid City include mix of residential, retail

Five groups of developers have submitted proposals to Catholic High School to redevelop the Westmoreland Village Shopping Center on Government Street in Mid City, which the school acquired in late 2010.

Gene Tullier, president of Catholic High, says he is very happy with the proposals the school has received because each includes a unique idea none of the other proposals has, and they all featured a mixed-use component with residential and retail ideas.

The proposals do not go into great detail about each group’s plans for the shopping center, and Tullier says that’s by design. All the school initially asked from each group was a broad concept and vision for the property.

A request for qualifications went out on July 21, asking for a developer or group of developers to help school officials decide how to improve upon half of the 9.2-acre tract that Hearthstone Properties, the tax-exempt corporation supporting the school, bought for $4.85 million just before Christmas 2010. Those proposals were due Monday.

The part of the property under consideration for redevelopment includes roughly four acres north of Cole Drive. The tract south of Cole will be kept for the school’s future needs.

While Tullier would not divulge the names of the groups who submitted proposals, he says each group has at least one team member from Baton Rouge and most of the teams have experience and connections outside the Capital City.

There is no firm timeline yet for redevelopment of the center, which is situated along a stretch of Government Street that is identified in the FuturEBR master plan as a key area for redevelopment.

Tullier says he hopes to meet with the school’s board of directors and other individuals who are part of the project in the next week or two to establish some direction for the process, as well as whittle down the list to about three groups the school administrators feel has the most viable proposals. After those conversations take place, the school will choose at least one group to continue to phase two of the RFQ, which calls for a very detailed plan for the center.

According to the RFQ, the redevelopment plans were to include a multipurpose design, possibly with residential, office and retail spaces; a food amenity, such as a café, catering service or restaurant; improved aesthetics through design, structures, courtyard and landscaping; and a “youthful appeal” that will make it attractive for students from CHS and other nearby schools.

The school has said it will not consider a big-box retail store, a business whose primary revenue comes from alcohol or tobacco, or a fast food restaurant with a drive-thru service as its only or primary way to order.

Read a recent Business Report cover story about other redevelopment efforts taking place in Mid City.

—Ryan Broussard

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