KENNER, LA (WVUE) - Imagine comparing Kenner to Destin. Well, Mayor Mike Yenni believes the comparison is not as far off as some might think.
"Condos out here, hotel, a boardwalk-style development," Yenni said while surveying 15 acres of undeveloped land overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. "Rivertown is where Kenner started, and this is Kenner's future. I think this is what needs to be developed."
Yenni wants to turn the unused land on the lakeside of the levee near Treasure Chest Casino into a state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar destination development.
His administration recently worked with lawmakers to rezone the land from recreational to commercial.
"I never did just want to put out pilings, put up restaurants that could be knocked down and blown back on the shore or on the levees. I wanted something upscale so that we can do more. We can make this a destination," Yenni said.
Local investors who are working with investors from Dubai recently submitted a proposal to Kenner to get the project going. Yenni feels "very good" about the proposal making the development idea a reality.
"I'm 40 years old and I never would have thought they'd bring something like this out here to Kenner," said resident Reginald Rahea, who thinks the project is long overdue. "It's something the city should have been considering because there is so much open real estate with nothing being done to it."
Yenni said the cost to build the development will be on investors and will not cost the city.
"It's something where [investors] may be looking for a TIF, which is a tax increment financing, which might not give us a lot of money up front, but it will through the long end. But whatever we've got to lure retailers out into this area, we are willing to talk about that," Yenni said.
According to Yenni, the construction will not affect levee protection and businesses will be built several stories up to protect from flood damage in the case of a hurricane.
"This is going to have parking that is underneath and will simply flood, and development will be above it," Yenni said.
The mayor said several local businesses such as the owner of Zea's restaurant and big chain companies have shown interest. There are some challenges ahead, but Yenni believes the deal could be finalized by the end of the year, and construction could begin at the start of next year.
"Am I 100 percent sure? Anything like this is likely to change but I feel very good about it," Yenni said.