Lake Charles: Is The City Living Up To Its Full Potential?
I wasn't born and raised here. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and lived on the West coast for a good majority of my adolescent years. My family moved here in the '80s and never left. I attended 8th grade through college right here in Lake Charles. I've been on the air in this city for more than 25 years, working with this and surrounding communities. I am grateful that I have lived a cultured life, living and traveling all over the country and being exposed to different things and places. Everyone who knows me well, knows I travel a lot.
I say that, to say this. I love Lake Charles. I've seen it grow by leaps and bounds over the years. We have so much culture, wonderful food, great people and, most of all, we're situated on a major highway that's traveled by millions every day. However in my opinion this city could be much more than what it is, just by paying a little more attention to detail.
For example, the first thing people see entering Lake Charles from the West is an old, outdated, safety hazard of a bridge, with narrow lanes, no emergency shoulder and low guardrails. It baffles me that a newer and safer bridge hasn't been constructed by now. I don't claim to know anything about the local politics, city planning or money allocations for the city, but I do know the I-10 and 210 bridges are death traps. One of them doesn't even have lights! If a person stalls out or has vehicle trouble on either bridge, they have a good chance of being killed, or at least getting seriously injured. The only reason is because they can't pull over, since there's no shoulder or emergency lanes. If they get out of the vehicle, there's nowhere to go, and a person stands a good chance of being hit by an oncoming car.
Even worse, if the lanes are blocked due to an accident, emergency vehicles can't even get to the victims. On top of that, EVERYONE is trapped on the bridge, because there is no way to go around the accident. With massive issues such as these, I cannot understand why something hasn't been done to fix things by now. Especially when we have three casinos feeding our economy. In the meantime, less than an hour away, Texas is constantly updating their overpasses, bridges and highways.
I-10 is a major interstate across America, and I just wish we could capitalize on the potential tourists that pass through our city minute by minute. Take the beach, for example. There's nothing on it, except for maybe a couple of tiny trees and a bathroom. Imagine the transformation if you came over the bridge and saw big, bright umbrellas and chairs all over. The visual effect would be amazing and inviting. Not only that, but those items would be quite useful, beings that there's no way to get out of the sun other than one of two pavilions that are always full. What if there was a cool tiki bar or building were beach goers could buy refreshments, food, ice, sun screen, beach toys...SOMETHING. These are small changes that can make a huge impact, not to mention add more money into our economy.
To build on my point, we only have two restaurants on I-10. Sure, downtown is up and coming, the new restaurants are great, and the newly remodeled boardwalk is gorgeous. But no one outside of the city knows they exist. Travelers can't see this from the interstate, and I doubt they're gonna get off just to drive around the downtown area. Have you noticed all the downtown restaurants are on one street?
Other than our small group of government buildings and banks downtown, we have empty lots, ugly abandoned gravel parking lots, with overgrown brush and a rotting, rusting parking garage next to a patch of sand we call a beach. We need something that will make people get off the highway, like food and shopping. To me, those empty lots would be an ideal place to put a Denny's, Hooters, Red Lobster, Cheddar's, a Tanger Outlet Mall or Bass Pro Shop, something people can see from I-10. How about Dave & Busters, ShowBiz, Gattitown, laser tag or other family fun or young adult attractions? These are stores we don't have anywhere else in town, and recognizable chains would entice drivers to get off the interstate, drive around, spend money, and stay a while.
I get that we need hotels, but do they ALL have to be in South Lake Charles? I get that we are growing and need to provide a temporary place for people to stay while visiting the city, but shouldn't we offer them more than one mall and casinos? Right now, our city is booming and anyone who wants a job can get one. However, most of the city's infrastructure, stores and road improvements are going to South Lake Charles. The rest of the city - with the exception of a small patch downtown - has basically been abandoned.
Central, East and North Lake Charles have some business, but nowhere near the nice roadways and storefronts that are popping up south of town every week. Ever notice there's not a single rundown, boarded-up, empty, unkempt lot or closed shopping center in South Lake Charles? Yet, if you take a drive down the single most traveled street leading out of the downtown area, Broad Street, the scenery changes drastically after you pass over Enterprise Blvd. The road is bumpy and worn, and there are several abandoned buildings and empty lots. It's downright ugly, and Highway 14 isn't much better in either direction. I would love to see some changes for the better in these areas, and I got a feeling I'm not the only one.
Downtown doesn't even have a grocery store. This was a golden opportunity for Walmart to capitalize on and rake in some serious business from both the businesses and neighborhoods in the area. Instead, they put a Walmart Neighborhood Market around the corner and down the street from Market Basket and Kroger, both of which are thriving and have been part of their communities for 50 years.
I don't know if city zoning could have encouraged the retail giant to move further down the road or not. But I do know that putting it by two long-standing grocery stores and possibly comprising their business and people's jobs in the process was silly. Not to mention the fact that, in addition to two grocery stores, it's across the street from a CVS and down the street from a Walgreen's and Rite Aid. ALL of this, less than a mile from one another, and we got NOTHING downtown? Something's really wrong with that picture.
By the way, there are only three hotels downtown, two of which aren't that nice at all. But there are about 15 in a 2 mile radius from one another South of town, and they're still burning trees and clearing lots to build more in the SAME area. You mean to tell me with all the festivals and events we have at the Civic Center, we can't offer our guests some better options Downtown, instead of sending them across the lake or on the other side of town to stay?
This isn't just about downtown Lake Charles. In fact, I don't even live downtown, but I work there. These are just a few things that I've observed and wish we could improve. This blog isn't about me bashing South Lake Charles, either. I LOVE the improvements and expanding that they're doing. I just don't think it makes sense to put EVERYTHING on one side of town. I would like to see our city have more and get tourist attractions like a zoo, an amusement or water park etc... I can go on, but I wont. Please understand this is just MY OPINION.
The bottom line is that I love this city, which is why I'm still here. This is home. I don't have all the answers. I just would love to see Lake Charles live up to its full potential. There's so much more we can do and be. Lake Charles has what other cities don't: a lot of open and undeveloped land. All I'm saying is that, as we develop, I would like to see a more balanced Lake Charles. A plan that includes growth for the ENTIRE city and one that ALL of its residents can benefit from.