- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

ARNAUDVILLE, La. (AP) - The idea of a French immersion center in Arnaudville took a big step toward becoming a reality earlier this month when the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation announced the completion of a business plan for the center.

The proposed immersion center, which plans to use the old St. Luke’s Hospital building that closed its doors in 1990, will be the only center of its kind in the United States.

The business plan, developed by consultants, Ardyn Thriffiley and Ed Bee of New Orleans, is the first step in the cultural master plan for the region and was facilitated by the LCEF with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and contributions from St. Landry and St. Martin Parish Governments.

“The business plan indicated it was definitely wanted in the community,” said St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot. “It would be a good investment and will not cost a lot of money.”

Fontenot said the project shouldn’t cost much money because the 25,000-square-foot building located in the heart of Arnaudville is in good condition.

The business plan development process, which took place over a three-month period, entailed community engagement and feedback, according to a LCEF press release. A committee composed of representatives of the two parish governments as well as tourism, economic development, business and elected officials, provided input and direction.

“We’re delighted with the results of the feasibility study,” said Mavis Fruge, a preservationist of French culture and an advocate for the immersion center. “There was about 800 responses and only 4 percent gave negative responses.”

Fontenot said in order for the project to move forward, the correct legislation needs to be passed in St. Landry and St. Martin parishes. He said St. Landry Parish has already passed legislation to remodel the building. St. Martin Parish must also pass the same legislation.

St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier and I are working diligently together with a strong commitment to seeing this culturally significant project continue to fruition,” he said.

The vision, as stated in the plan, is for the Louisiana French immersion campus in Arnaudville to be the premier destination in the country for French language immersion and cultural enrichment among the people, environment and customs that define the heritage of the Acadiana region in Louisiana.

Fontenot said clients from well-known universities across the country already come to Arnaudville to immerse themselves in the culture. The French immersion center would allow for more visitors to come.

“It will allow for students to be housed and fed,” Fontenot said. “People will come here and spend money. It creates a cultural economy.”

“This impacts our state in a positive way,” Fruge said. “Tourism generates a lot of money for the state. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Once the legislation is passed, Fontenot said, the project should take only a couple of months to finish.

“It is a high time of interest in the culture,” Fontenot said. “This center will serve the Teche community and grow into Acadiana. The benefits are unlimited.”

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Information from: The Daily World, http://www.dailyworld.com

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