The mixed-used development will include townhouses and some commercial spaces.
Stroll down bustling South Public Road in Lafayette today and you might think it had always been the center of activity in town. But it’s actually Lafayette’s second “Main Street”—the original downtown was a few blocks east on Simpson Street, which runs perpendicular to South Public Road.
Over the years, for various reasons, the center of town gradually migrated west, all but abandoning the original downtown and leaving it in somewhat of a ghost-town-like state.
But things are changing again. Although South Public Road is still a vibrant area filled with public art, galleries, popular eateries and the city’s Festival Plaza, a revitalization of Simpson Street is underway. In 2014, a historic 1898 building in the 400 block was rehabilitated and is now Lafayette Commons, a community office building with 22 office suites around an open atrium. Tenants include medical and real estate offices, and a variety of other businesses.
On the northwest corner of Simpson Street and Iowa Avenue, construction began last May on the Simpson Old Town Project.
Jennifer Ooton, executive director of the Lafayette Urban Renewal Authority, says the mixed-used development will include townhouses and some commercial spaces.
“The Simpson Old Town development will offer desirable residential units within walking distance of a growing collection of dining and entertainment attractions along Simpson Street, Lafayette’s original main street,” Ooton says.
The popular public-art program along the length of South Public Road is also extending east onto Simpson Street. In October, “Winged Hunter,” by Lafayette native Joellen Domenico, was installed at the Lafayette Miners’ Museum, 108 E. Simpson St. Also in October, Pat Kennedy’s “The Strollers” was installed in front of Lafayette Commons and dedicated in honor of Jean Mellblom, who is considered to be “the mother of Lafayette’s public-art program,” Ooton says.
“The family purchased the piece believing that Mellblom would have loved its contemporary lines, its bold mass and the story of a couple walking arm-in-arm through life.”