There is a new and exciting community experience coming to Lafayette.

'The Forum' is a $50 million development project that is the result of a collaboration between Sneaker Politics founder/owner Derek Curry, Collective Woodwork & Design's Alejandro Luna, and Terry Crochet with The Architect Design Studio.

But after speaking with the team behind 'The Forum', I quickly realized that this was less of a "shopping center" and more of a "shopping experience"—which lines up with their mission statement to "be a retail, entertainment, and living experience like no other, with its focus on offering cultural experiences set to incite our entire community."

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A quick glance at a few of the renderings shows an incredible architectural style that has yet to be seen in Acadiana.

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This is good news for the centrally-located area of Lafayette that will play home to 'The Forum' at 4533 Johnston Street—often referred to by locals as "the old Academy" property. For years, the area located along Johnston Street between Camelia Boulevard and Mount Vernon next to the Grande Marche shopping center has sat as a blighted piece of property.

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Curry, Luna, and Crochet have meticulously planned to revitalize that space into a place for Acadiana to shop, eat, grab drinks—or as Curry so eloquently put it, "just hang out."

It's the same atmosphere that has made his Sneaker Politics stores so successful—as Curry has always fostered a brand that was "for everyone"—regardless of what city, what neighborhood, or what side of town he was on.

Curry, a UL graduate, veteran, and lifelong resident of Acadiana, built the Sneaker Politics brand starting in 2006, only a few blocks away from his new development off Arnould Blvd., and has since expanded to numerous other cities.

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He began by opening up his first out-of-town location in Metairie in 2010, following up with a Baton Rouge location in 2012. But as Sneaker Politics grew, so did new store locations in the New Orleans French Quarter, Austin, and most recently, Dallas.

At one point Curry saw his brand rapidly expanding on a trajectory that would naturally find Politics locations in even bigger markets but something told him that before he grew into the next big city, the timing felt right to "invest in home."

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Ironically, Luna—a frequent collaborator with Curry on other design projects in major markets—had a vision for bringing some of the amenities and shopping experiences found in developments he has worked with to Lafayette. Luna worked with Crochet to bring his vision to life and the result was a $50 million project dubbed 'The Forum.'

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While words can't do the actual aesthetic justice, Luna described floor-to-ceiling glass that gives consumers the feeling that they are "in a store without even stepping foot into the space." Plans show multi-level retail, restaurant, and lounge spaces housed between architecture that has yet to be seen in the Lafayette area.

Luna and Crochet worked closely to focus on the small details that would build on the community experience they were aiming to deliver to set 'The Forum' apart from anything else in town.

For instance, man-made materials used for facades were purposely chosen to reflect sunsets and sunrises to create a welcoming ambiance for patrons of 'The Forum.' Speaking of ambiance, Curry was just as excited about the community gatherings at 'The Forum' as he was about the restaurant, retail, and entrepreneurial opportunities that his investment will hopefully provide for Lafayette.

With the use of bollards and natural boundaries, 'The Forum' will be able to easily transform into a space primed for live events, bands, performances, and other forms of entertainment and experiences that will accentuate the best parts of our culture here in Acadiana.

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It's important to note that while 'The Forum' will be a unique place that Lafayette doesn't yet have, every detail has been inspired in some way, shape, or form by the things that make our city great.

It's something that Curry has brought with him to every corner of the globe that his Sneaker Politics brand has touched thus far and the unique culture that we foster here in Acadiana was one of the main points of inspiration behind the project that he can't wait to share with everyone.

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To quote the Sneaker Politics founder: "Lafayette has given me so much, and it's exciting to think that I can give something back to my hometown on a scale that will make this an even better place to live, work, and play."

Curry will be able to share his vision sooner than later as 'The Forum' is looking to be open as soon as Summer 2022. More details and an even more in-depth unveiling of 'The Forum' took place on November 30 at a press conference hosted by Keaty Real Estate.

For more information follow along with 'The Forum' as they grow here through their official website or on social media @theforumlaf

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