The owners of a historic Gonzales shopping center are demolishing it and planning to develop a new retail center with a grocery store anchor, injecting new investment into an older part of a city that has seen more commercial growth on its fringes in recent years.
LeBlanc’s Plaza, which also goes by the name the Mall on Burnside Shopping Center, is near the southeast corner of the intersection of Airline Highway and North Burnside Avenue in one of the busiest commercial areas of Gonzales. Marcy LeBlanc said his father built the first building in the shopping center in the late 1950s
But the center is home to just a handful of business with a deteriorating parking lot that has prompted safety concerns from city officials.
Demolition started last week on some of the buildings as LeBlanc and partnership group, Galleries Gonzales LLC, plan a new roughly 60,000-square-foot complex on the 11-acre site.
Other investors in Galleries Gonzales include Marcy’s brother, Randy; family friend, Mike LeBlanc; and local businessman Arthur Scanlan.
Reached at his office Monday, LeBlanc said Galleries Gonzales are trying to finish a deal with a grocery store anchor.
“We’re real close,” said LeBlanc, who is part of the family that owned the old Gonzales-based LeBlanc’s Food Store chain.
He declined to name the grocer at this point — “Everybody knows it,” LeBlanc said — but was hopeful the deal could be completed by early June.
He also shot down rumors circulated on social media that Academy Sports was headed to the center.
LeBlanc said he hoped the demolition of the first buildings in the shopping center will be finished in 10 days.
All of the few remaining tenants, including an AutoZone Auto Parts on Burnside, have been offered spots in the new complex. AutoZone is looking at a new larger layout in the redeveloped site, LeBlanc and city officials said.
LeBlanc and his family had previously only owned a smaller part of the overall complex – the area now fenced off and being demolished — but his business partners bought the 8 remaining acres of the shopping center property more than two years ago for an undisclosed price.
Baton Rouge-based Commercial Properties, the real estate company that had had a 60-year lease on the land, chose not to renew and redevelop after some back-and-forth talks, leading LeBlanc and his partners to take on the efforts now starting, he said.
Scot Byrd, Gonzales chief administrative officer, said the shopping center had become an eyesore and parts of the parking lot had become a safety concern that city officials had raised with Commercial Properties.
The parking lot had been used for years as a cut-through between Burnside and Airline. Despite those conditions, Byrd said AutoZone and another remaining tenant, Rotolo’s Pizzeria, have their stores are among the top performers in the chain.
“My hats off to Marcy. He is really doing the city a solid by taking on this project,” Byrd said.
Like LeBlanc, Byrd could not say what grocer is eying the redeveloped shopping center.
LeBlanc’s family grocery store chain sold all nine locations to Rouses Supermarket in October 2016. At the time, owners of both chains talked about their families’ preexisting friendship and closely aligned business philosophies.
Rouses has a location in Gonzales, however, just down Airline from the LeBlanc shopping center. Rouses did not return a call and an email for comment Tuesday, but Byrd said the company eying the shopping center isn’t Rouses nor the Sprouts Farmers Market chain.
Byrd said the shopping center is one of group of properties to which city officials have been trying to entice new grocers, including Sprouts.