Growth rate doesn’t bode well for more retail

Consulting firm says parish population can’t support a major shopping center

When parish planners asked residents what they would like to see occur in the area over the next 20 years, more commercial development was near the top of most people’s list. But because the parish is experiencing a growth rate of under 1 percent, it’s unlikely the parish could support more retail.

By 2030, the parish is expected to have only 5,000 to 10,000 new residents, according to a consulting firm that is helping the parish with its comprehensive land use plan.

“The desire for more shopping centers, entertainment and restaurants was near the top of the ‘I wish we had it list’ for folks here,” John Fernsler, of the Wallace, Roberts and Todd consulting firm, said. “While we understand the desire to have more commercial development, the facts are that 5,000 to 10,000 additional people spread out in this parish will not create the critical mass necessary to support a major shopping center.”

Fernsler said that the parish will likely see additional small stores, such as dollar stores, move in as the population slowly increases, but nothing major.

“Decades ago, you had been seeing a 5, 6 or 7 percent growth rate,” Fernsler said. “Now, that growth rate is under 1 percent.”

That 1 percent growth would likely mean 1,800 to 3,600 new households. There are already 1,200 lots available in existing neighborhoods, which could accommodate a lot of that growth.

The rest would fill only a tiny fraction of the land that is zoned and developable, Fernsler said.

“You have got much more growing room than you can conceivably consume in the next 20 years,” he added.

Fernsler was quick to point out that population numbers could change drastically depending on what happens to area industry.

“All it would take would be one major, new employer to give us a growth spurt like we had in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” he said. “On the other hand, all it would take would be losing one of your existing major employers to make the population growth rate dip even further.”


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