DENHAM SPRINGS – Business space in Denham Springs continues to be in high demand, a sign Mayor Gerard Landry sees as helping in the city’s flood recovery.
At the same time, the mayor says the city must monitor its growth -- both business and residential -- so Denham Springs can maintain its quality of life and what is attracting both families and business.
“We have to control what happens for our people to enjoy the quality of life we have here,” Landry said.
“We have to put our arms around where we live,” he said.
Landry says he continues to be contacted by what he called a “diverse group” of businesses, all saying, “They've got to have office space here.”
When a business spot opens up in Denham Springs, it does not stay that way long, Landry said.
Duke’s Seafood took over the closed Piccadilly Cafeteria near Interstate 12 – “Who wouldn’t want a location right near the interstate,” Landry said.
As another example, he cited Popeye’s decision not to open its store on Range Avenue. Community Coffee snapped up the property to open its first CC’s Coffee House here.
At one of the community meetings held by DenhamStrong to map out the long-term direction for the city, Landry said he spoke with Celton Hayden Jr., the CEO of CC’s Coffee House.
“He said they had been trying to find the right location for a while, but it had to be the right one,” he said.
“What that tells me is to get on the horn to realtors,” to let them know to publicize any business property they are handling, Landry said.
The mayor also said he had discussions with a developer about the Livingston Square Shopping Center on Range Avenue but has not heard back lately from him.
The city erected a fence about the property as a safety measure, he said.
Landry listed recent additions to the business community – the Salad Station, Takumi Hibachi Sushi & Bar, Mooyah’s Burgers and Sarita’s Grill.
“This is the economic engine – the fuel – of the job market,” Landry said.
With businesses come jobs, which means paychecks and more money circulating in the Denham Springs economy, he said.
Most of Denham Springs’ revenue comes from its sales tax, Landry said.
Another part of the challenge, Landry said, is the city wants businesses to be “the right fit” for Denham Springs, bringing jobs but not putting an undue strain on city services or changing what makes the city attractive to its residents, Landry said.
If he had a wish, Landry said, it would be to see a large office complex come to Denham Springs, a three- or four-story facility for businesses to locate in to offer the services that residents travel to Baton Rouge to get.
“We could use a place for families, a place where family members can do many things,” such as putt-putt golf, bowling, movies or sitting down to enjoy ice cream or pizza, he said.
“It would satisfy the needs of the whole family,” he said.
From the DenhamStrong community meetings, Landry said, the public said it is interested in more affordable housing, not higher density.
This could mean smaller homes, but the city would have to revisit its housing codes, he said.
“To accommodate our housing needs as we grow, we may have to rethink our ordinances,’ Landry said, “We only have so much space.”
The city’s permit process is like most municipalities, Landry said.
“We don’t give up anything,” he added, ‘We follow the code book.”
Despite the growth since the flood, the mayor said annexation is not an option being considered.
“We have to look at it from a business standpoint,” he explained, doing a cost analysis of what annexation any area would do to the city’s fire rating, demand for police protection and street and drainage maintenance.
“This is critical to the budget of the city,” he said.
Landry also had just finished an interview for a documentary that ran on cable network CNN about Denham Springs one year after the flood.
They toured Old City Hall, the Antique District and talked to retailers, he said.
This type of documentary is another stepping stone to let people know the city is coming back, the mayor said.
“We’re making progress a step at a time,” he said.
Kevin Fambrough is a reporter at the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @fambroughkevin.