Just Imagine SWLA, the 50-year resilience master plan consisting of 11 catalytic projects dedicated to transforming Southwest Louisiana’s landscape, is celebrating its recent recognition as the plan was awarded the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) ’s Charter Award in The Region: Metropolis, City, and Town category at the CNU Annual Congress last month in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Just Imagine SWLA CNI Award

The CNU Charter Awards, renowned for honoring outstanding efforts in urban planning and development, spotlight the work of CNU members and their collaborators who craft spaces that inspire and enrich lives. Just Imagine SWLA’s inclusion among the winners underscores its profound impact on enhancing Southwest Louisiana’s urban environment.

Fueled by a $2.5 million donation from Moss Bluff native David Filo and his wife Angela following the 2020 natural disasters, the Just Imagine SWLA plan focuses on the future of Calcasieu and Cameron parishes and engages the community in shaping it. The 11 key projects, including coastal protection and neighborhood revitalization, promise a resilient future for all. 

In a recent article by Public Square, a CNU Journal, announcing the award, Robert Steuteville writes about the Just Imagine SWLA project that will revitalize the heart of Lake Charles – Mid-City Neighborhood Transformation: 

“On a neighborhood scale, the Lake Charles Housing Authority and other public entities received a $40 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant, which will leverage $270 million in public and private investment. The recent storms severely damaged Lloyd Oaks public housing, with only 65 of 240 units occupied after. “Concentrated, low-income public housing will be redeveloped into 562 units of mixed-income, mixed-use housing built to FORTIFIED Multifamily Gold standards,” the design team explains. The city is building two new neighborhood parks incorporating resilient stormwater systems and expanding kayak access for low- and middle-income residents. That’s the first public housing redevelopment I have seen involving small boats—appropriate for a region that loves water.

Called the Mid-City Neighborhood Transformation, the Choice Neighborhoods project includes 20,000 square feet of retail on the ground floors of buildings, accommodating local entrepreneurs and businesses, an equity center, spaces for social service providers, and community gathering and meeting rooms. All are moving forward, in addition to other neighborhood-scale projects, including downtown revitalization. “Large-scale neighborhood infill is planned to diversify incomes, add housing in walking distance to amenities, and attract new amenities into existing neighborhoods, including space for local businesses, non-profit organizations, and community gathering,” the team explains.”

The CNU article and the award also highlight the community engagement that lies at the heart of Just Imagine SWLA, with over 7,300 comments that helped shape its direction. Steuteville also mentions Bayou Greenbelt, which will serve a dual purpose by providing recreational opportunities while bolstering flood defenses. 

Just Imagine SWLA paves the way for a more resilient and equitable future for Southwest Louisiana. By fostering collaboration and investing in strategic initiatives, the region is ready to face challenges and poised to thrive in the decades to come, offering a promising future for all.

To learn more, visit www.justimagine.org and sign up for the e-newsletter.