NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Kenner leaders said there is still room for more growth, but economic development is picking up.
It was a proud moment inside the Esplanade Mall on Thursday, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the Kenner Community Health Center as a new tenant in the mall that is not as robust as some elected leaders would like.
"We're seeing something that could infuse some more walking traffic in this mall and hopefully give further development based on the traffic that's going to come to Access Health," said Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni, who not that long ago was Kenner's mayor and one who sought to infuse new life into the mall. "I told them anything they needed me to do I would do. One previous mall manager reminded me that I'd gotten elected mayor, not the mall manager."
"Much as some people would like to believe that we're not growing, we have new businesses, new developments coming in," said Kenner Acting Mayor Mike Sigur, who is also handling his City Council duties until the fall mayoral election is held.
He said developers plan to build a 200-plus unit apartment complex on the site of the old Hollywood Cinema called Gateway at Esplanade in the rear of the mall property. Also on acres of vacant land just outside the mall property between 32nd Street and I-10, used car giant CarMax will be a $25 million facility to serve the region.
"They will use our site to feed these other sites automobiles," Sigur said.
Still, a privately owned strip mall nearby on West Esplanade is mainly devoid of tenants.
"I venture to say he's looking for some bigger retailer to take that versus going to single, smaller stores," Sigur said.
Near Lake Pontchartrain on Williams Boulevard, construction is well underway on a Planet Fitness, while a developer's idea for upscale condos is not off the ground.
"He is still interested and we're meeting his challenges because that's a big project for him and the area," Sigur said.
Despite challenges, retail activity is going in the right direction in Kenner.
"They had a four-percent increase in sales tax revenue in the city of Kenner, and even with the Esplanade being slightly down, that's still huge because that shows people are investing in this community," said Yenni.
And the hope is that more young people will want to live not only in Kenner but the rest of Jefferson Parish.
"In the 2010 census we lost population and that's concerning to me, and that happened parish-wide and that's why we've got to start going after that younger generation," Yenni said.
Sigur said he is in talks with the airport in hopes of getting the Aviation Board to free up some of the unused land in Kenner for businesses eager to open in the area.