You may need to do a double take as the old warehouse that SchoolMint will soon call home. It already looks quite different on the outside.
To enter, you will no longer stop on Monroe Street. The rear of the building facing Buchanan Street will be the new entrance for the approximately 100 employees who will soon call the 13,000 square foot cinderblock building on the outskirts of downtown their workplace.
The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority is refurbishing it for the latest addition to Lafayette’s technology sector. And another thing: it might not technically be downtown according to the maps, but it’s pretty close.
“It’s two blocks away – it’s downtown,” CEO Bryan MacDonald said. “We think it’s downtown. We were tied to a downtown location. For us, it’s downtown.
The building sits on what the LPTFA calls its campus, that section north of Second Street that’s kind of sewn to the northern edge of downtown and will probably in the future be part of what everyone calls the downtown. But this section is also the one that has had a lot of activity in recent months and the one that some designate as the future gateway to downtown Lafayette.
Angecy also recently opened The Monroe, a 70-unit apartment complex at market price located at the corner of Monroe and Olivier streets. It has also set up around 150 parking spaces in this area for public use, many of which will be available to SchoolMint employees.
This is also the area where LPTFA installed the sewage lift station in 2019, which paved the way for residential growth in the downtown area.
“We’ve had this refrain for I don’t know how long,” said Rex Moroux, commercial sales and leasing agent at Scout Real Estate. “You have this chicken and egg problem with downtown residential development and everything that comes with it. Everyone is waiting for residential, and developers are waiting for other things.
“LPTFA was able to circumvent some of these challenges, particularly in the neighborhood they chose to focus on. They are just able to do things that developers and the private sector are not able to do.
The agency, which dates back to the early 1980s, now owns most of the properties in the area bounded by Second, Monroe, Simcoe and Grant streets, as well as the lots west of Monroe Street that house the Uptown Lofts .
The LPTFA is an autonomous public authority that earns money through investments, real estate and financing and uses the proceeds to support projects deemed to be in the public interest in the parish of Lafayette. It does not use taxpayers’ money. Think of it as a trust fund for the city, said executive director Kevin Blanchard.
The agency started by helping prospective homeowners find the down payment for a home, council chairman Anthony Daniel said. Almost every major city in Louisiana established one at the time. It has since moved on and been involved in several projects over the years, but has retained its focus on its campus, a kind of warehouse district for downtown.
Its purpose was part of the reason SchoolMint jumped on board with the Monroe building, as well as the fact that the LPTFA was home to a company, Firefly Digital, which SchoolMint eventually acquired.
“The board had the foresight years and years ago to plant a flag in this part of Lafayette and say, ‘There may not be anyone else investing here, but we know it’s a good place to do business and a good place to live,’” Blanchard said.
“What I do know is that a business like SchoolMint is a signal that I think the trust’s investments have paid off. ‘invest.
This neighborhood could be a “dynamic gateway” to downtown, said Anita Begnaud, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority. The two LPTFA projects will bring more people to the northern edge of downtown, which also includes CGI’s downtown operations further down Congress Street.
The Lafayette Consolidated Government is doing an engineering study for the streetscape efforts to prepare it for further development, she said.
“I think you’re going to see more and more interest in the downtown perimeter for a number of reasons, and the LPTFA can be a part of that,” Begnaud said. “He’s a big player. They’re well-funded and mobilized to do projects when the opportunities arise. They’re starting to have multiple things happening on their campus at the same time. It’s a really good example of the different components of the city center coming together and making things happen.
Lafayette business owner James Troyanowski, who owns properties near the corner of Congress and Lafayette streets, is exploring a 29-unit apartment building at that corner that would have 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
“That’s why I decided to go with this area — because from what I’m hearing from other people,” said Troyanowski, who is partnering with architect Stephen Ortego on the project. “No one has a crystal ball, but it seems like everything they build there seems to fill up pretty quickly. The more buildings they build there, the more it becomes its own little urban sub-area and the downtown becomes stronger.
Others point to two other pending developments that could dramatically change this section of downtown – the I-49 connector that will have an off-ramp that dumps traffic onto Second Street and the block with the old Coburn building that the LPTFA is leasing with intent to buy from the State Department of Transportation and Development.
Both are years away, but people are already talking. This will require significant changes, such as traffic going down Second Street, Blanchard noted.
As for the Coburn building block, it’s in an area of downtown that hasn’t been redeveloped and would need a strategy to draw foot traffic to that area, Moroux said.
“I have no idea what I would like to see there, but I’m sure there are a lot of people with a lot of different ideas,” Daniel said. “But the main thing is that we would like to partner with someone. We would like people who have a stake in making this city a better place to benefit from what we do. It can be anything. Our imagination is limitless when it comes to this site.