America has had a complicated relationship with Downtowns. When we invented the suburbs in the mid-20th century, Downtowns were left behind, only to make a roaring comeback in the 21st century.

That story should sound familiar for folks in Lafayette. Lafayette’s Downtown was left for dead in the 1980s and 1990s. It was practically a no-man’s land in the late 20th century but started coming back to life at the turn of millennium.

That turnaround didn’t come from nowhere. In 1983, some local business leaders created Downtown Lafayette Unlimited, a nonprofit group that promotes activity and commerce in Downtown Lafayette, sort of like a chamber of commerce.

Most folks know DLU by its major public programs like Downtown Alive! and most recently the building of an inclusive playground at Parc Sans Souci.

Jessica Hauerwas, since 2023 Executive Director of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited is beginning to preside over a residential resurgence and business boom

Jessica Hauerwas, since 2023 Executive Director of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited is beginning to preside over a residential resurgence and business boom

Today, DLU is headed by Jessica Hauerwas, who took over as DLU’s executive director in 2023.  Jessica comes from a marketing background. She moved to Lafayette from Houma to go to UL and got jobs in marketing and business development at Acadiana Center for the Arts, Brand Russo and LogoJet.

Jessica got involved in DLU as a board member, becoming board president. Her job today is to promote Downtown as a destination and community asset and to raise money for DLU’s programs and activities.

American Downtowns can be pretty old. That’s why folks left for the suburbs in the first place: lots of cheap, new stuff. But Downtowns have great bones and great buildings. Putting them back into proper form is a great way to freshen up the built environment and create a sense of place.

For that kind of work, you’ll need an architect. Nic Bourque, is an architect’s architect. Fun fact: Nic was the first person to receive a master’s degree in architecture from UL. From there, he worked as a staff designer in Baton Rouge before returning to Lafayette to open his own firm in 2013.

Nic joined veteran firm Holly & Smith Architects in 2022, where he now serves as its studio director.

Nic Bourque, Studio Director at Holly & Smith Architects where they have made revitalizing downtowns a specialty

Nic Bourque, Studio Director at Holly & Smith Architects where they have made revitalizing downtowns a specialty

Holly & Smith have earned a reputation for restoring forgotten buildings, particularly in Downtowns and main streets. They work mostly on commercial projects, with some residential contracts mixed in. They’ve carved out a niche for themselves in sustainable design and specialize in using passive climate control systems, landscaping and shading to achieve comfortable interiors with a smaller carbon footprint. The firm has locations in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Hammond.

Christiaan Mader hosts Out to Lunch Acadiana from the boardroom at the Acadiana Center for the Arts

Christiaan Mader hosts Out to Lunch Acadiana from the boardroom at the Acadiana Center for the Arts

Out to Lunch Acadiana was recorded live at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in  downtown Lafayette.  Photos by Astor Morgan.