COVINGTON, La. - In an ambitious plan that could cost millions of dollars and take years to complete, St. Tammany Parish officials and a developer want to transform a 75-acre tract just north of Interstate 12 near Covington into an arts complex.
The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/16biBJ7) the proposal includes a performing arts centre, a children's museum, walking trails and a full-service hotel and upscale restaurant.
The $50 million project is backed by Parish President Pat Brister and developer Bruce Wainer, who is donating the land on Pinnacle Parkway near the Tchefuncte River.
The parish hopes to secure public funding for infrastructure and to build the performing arts centre.
Wainer would keep of two outparcels: one for a hotel and another for a restaurant.
Brister said St. Tammany residents want more cultural offerings close to home.
"We are growing up," she said. "I have no doubt that the parish is ready for this."
Brister said the idea for an arts complex has been around for nearly a decade but wouldn't have been possible without Wainer's agreement to donate the land.
The development's centerpiece is the performing arts centre, including a 2,200-seat auditorium. Wainer and Brister said its size could change, based on a study of St. Tammany demographics.
The St. Tammany Children's Museum, which has been in the works since 2003 and was originally planned for a site off of Koop Drive, also has agreed to locate on the site.
Lisa Barnett, president of the board of trustees, said the museum would likely cost around $12 million and open in 2016 or 2017. As part of the project, a raised boardwalk is planned from the museum down to the banks of the Tchefuncte River.
"We want the museum to showcase the natural element," Barnett said.
For Wainer, the site off of Pinnacle Parkway and bordered on the east by the Tchefuncte River was a logical spot. The Interstate 12 corridor between Baton Rouge and Slidell has been the site of a large number of developments by his company, Metairie-based Wainer Companies.
"We lose people to New Orleans for entertainment," he said. "The whole goal is to keep them in the parish."
Brister and other parish officials visited Lincoln Center in New York City in 2012 to consult with officials about the proposed development in Louisiana.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com
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