Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Jefferson Parish leaders say the state of the parish is strong despite some challenges in the new year.

They gave a snap shot of the parish entering the new year during the JP Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon in Kenner.

Jefferson Parish President John Young told the luncheon that the parish dropped to second in parish population to East Baton Rouge by about 10,000 people.

He said going forward, the parish has to do a better job replacing an aging population.

'What we need to do ladies and gentlemen, and we need to do this together, is we need capture young, entrepreneurial professional class to Jefferson Parish,' said Young.

He admits many younger people prefer a city lifestyle over a bedroom community like Jefferson.

'They're not interested in the same housing options that our parents were interested in,' said Young. 'They're not interested in ownership, some of them. They want to rent. They want green space. They want pedestrian-friendly communities.'

Jefferson Parish is pinning its hopes for a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood on the Fat City section of Metairie, not far from Lakeside Shopping Center.

'We have to create that quality of place that includes pedestrian friendly roadways and bike paths and areas where you can live and work and walk,' said JP Chamber of Commerce President Todd Murphy.

Fat City has gone from being a popular entertainment area during the disco years, to an enclave of dive bars and shuttered businesses in recent years. Still, Young believes it can one day be Jefferson Parish's version of the upscale Warehouse District in New Orleans.

'Where you can have mixed retail, food establishments and living in that particular area,' said Young.

There is also new opportunity just across the newly widened Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi River.

'That plot between the Harvey Canal and the St. Charles Parish line is ripe for development, to build communities of the future to attract the young professional and entrepreneurial class to settle down in Jefferson Parish,' said Young.

New development is already underway near the east approach to the bridge with a 65,000 square foot expansion of the Elmwood Shopping Center.

'You've seen a lot of expansion in retail, commercial, restaurants, that have gone up, again yes, all because of the expansion of that bridge,' said Murphy.

While there have been no contracts signed, Young says a Jefferson Parish based developer is talking about building a new, Warehouse District-style development complete with upscale apartments, shops and restaurants somewhere in the parish.

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