Kevin Blanchard and Jessica Hauerwas – Downtown Lafayette

Kevin Blanchard, CEO of Downtown Development Authority (“DDA”) and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (“DLU”), and Jessica Hauerwas, Executive Director of DLU, join Discover Lafayette to discuss their organizations’ missions, focus and programming.

The two organizations work together to preserve and enhance Downtown Lafayette’s place as the heart of Acadiana, providing resources for businesses, developers, and community members to keep Downtown Lafayette thriving and successful. DLU was formed in the November 1983 as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization as the oil bust was causing people to relocate, as a mechanism to reinvigorate downtown; DDA was created in 1992 by Louisiana legislation not long after and is supported by a dedicated tax of 15 mills paid by downtown property owners.

Kevin was hired to take over the helm of the two organizations earlier this year upon the departure of Anita Begnaud, who served as Downtown Lafayette’s CEO for the past several years. He brings rich experience to the table, having served as Executive Director of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, COO for Southern Lifestyle and Development, and Chief Development Officer and Public Works Director at Lafayette Consolidated Government under the Joey Durel Administration. He practiced as an attorney with the Onebane Law Firm, was Editor-in-Chief of the Louisiana Law Review and covered government and politics as a reporter for The Acadiana Advocate newspaper.

Jessica was hired in November 2023 to oversee DLU’s day-to-day operations and promote downtown as an economic driver, cultural epicenter and key element of the region’s quality of life. She leads its fundraising strategies, nurtures relationships with the organization’s members, donors, and partners, and works on programming DLU’s events (such as Bach Lunch, Downtown Alive, and Lunch and Learn) and helps downtown businesses promote their own events. Jessica previously worked in marketing and operations with Acadiana Center for the Arts and had served as president of the DLU board.

Family friendly programming is a key focus of Downtown Lafayette, as it not only provides wonderful entertainment for our community, but it serves to drive people downtown who may not have experienced its growing attractions. DDA and DLU are working to have people see downtown as a safe neighborhood, “as a great place to feel free to play, get entertained, work and live,” says Kevin. Downtown Alive is celebrating its 40th year

Longtime goals of Downtown Lafayette have focused on the construction of residential spaces to attract permanent residents and achieve infrastructure improvements supporting the needs of a vibrant downtown. A residential market study commissioned by DDA shows a demand for 1,000 residential housing units in the downtown area over the next five years. New properties recently completed downtown include the Vermilion Lofts, The Lofts at the Municipal Apartments, and the Monroe Apartments.

Building downtown brings its own unique challenges as the streets were built in the late 1800s and properties were placed on postage-size spaces. Kevin explained that there is a higher cost to the developer in repurposing these existing older sites, but the benefit to the community is great as existing infrastructure is utilized and the increased density creates a bigger tax base.

“I am so optimistic about where we are in Downtown Lafayette. In 2016, we had a 5,400 person capacity in our downtown bars. Today, that number is 3,000. In 2017, the moratorium on bars was lifted and a conditional use process was put in place. It has promoted a health, active nighlife situation. Six or seven years ago, there were 19 restaurants downtown; now, there are 29.” says Kevin Blanchard.

Private individuals are seeing the benefits of donating dollars to downtown, and one shining example is the new 6,000 square foot, $1 million state-of-the-art Playground at Parc Sans Souci, which was financed totally with private donations. The playground was designed for accessibility to people of all ages and abilities, and officially opened to the public on April 19, 2024. It’s a great place to meet for play dates and Kevin says people are driving in from surrounding towns to enjoy this new addition to downtown, causing foot traffic to spread.

Festival International was held the weekend of April 24, 2024, and Kevin stated that 150,000 people were in attendance on the Saturday of festival. The event was safely coordinated, mostly by hundreds of volunteers working under the direction of Executive Director Scott Feehan, and the festival’s dedicated board of directors and staff.

A new event called Farm to Table(aux) benefiting DLU is scheduled for November 10, 2024, and will be held at the AcA. It will celebrate all the things people love about downtown: the food, art and culture. General Admission tickets are $175, and VIP tickets are $225.

A new initiative to convene property owners, residents, tenants, and stakeholders together to take action for a cleaner, safer Downtown will be kicked off on May 7, 2024, 11:30 to 1:30 at Rock “N” Bowl de Lafayette. Kevin Blanchard will discuss DDA and DLU’s vision on how Neighbor to Neighbor will bring the community together to align on rules and regulations, ways to hold people accountable, and steps that can be taken to continue efforts into making Downtown a welcoming environment for all. Discussion points will include: Residential living, Nightlife, Zoning and ordinances, Trash and litter maintenance, and Rules and regulations for transparency and accountability. The event is open to the public and registration may be made here.

The #1 issue Kevin receives feedback on is the perception that nightlife is out of control. In DDA and DLU’s efforts to attract people downtown to reside, play and work, this is a critical issue to address. Post 10:00 p.m., there is still a chaotic atmosphere as many youth under the age of 21 head downtown to enjoy the nightlife scene. Kevin wants to see an ordinance enacted that will crackdown on underage drinking, and recounted actions taken in Baton Rouge after the tragic death of a female LSU student, who, with a blood alcohol level of .319, was raped, dropped off on the street by her assailants, then fatally hit by a car. In Baton Rouge’s Tigerland, the bar owners now self-regulate on monitoring the drinking age of its patrons as it is not worth it to be shut down and lose business. “We need to get to this point as a community. Residents don’t want to live around the chaos.”

“Early adopters” of living downtown are either young, married couples with no children, or unmarried individuals. Empty nesters are a growing market but are still not in the early adopter audience, which DDA wants to target as they continue to work to showcase downtown as a neighborhood.

“Downtown is the new mall. You park once and you’re able to eat, shop, and have unique experiences. We’re working to encourage people who haven’t been downtown in a while to come down and experience it. You can now see people on sidewalks 24/7 and it feels right as there are more residential spaces,” says Jessica Hauerwas, Executive Director of DLU.

It helps to remember history, to put the significance of a vital downtown core into perspective. Before the 1950s, before the interstate was built, downtown was “the town of Lafayette.” People lived there, worked there, shopped there, and ate there. It is still a place to be regarded as a neighborhood, and is thriving. Kevin says, “While there are issues with affordable housing, homelessness, and adjudicated properties in areas that abut Downtown Lafayette, DDA and DLU’s new mindset is to lead conversations and work with neighborhood coteries to solve common problems.” What helps the core of Lafayette ultimately benefits our whole region. As Kevin eloquently said, “I think Lafayette is best when it’s betting on itself. We can do this….we can figure it out.”

For more information on DDA and DLU, as well as upcoming events, visit or