Baton Rouge Master Planning Process Gets Results
“Reconnecting to the River” and “Plan Baton Rouge” Lead to Significant Improvements Downtown
TMG Consulting’s Bonnie Garrigan and Rachael Bauer were in downtown Baton Rouge last week assisting the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport administer its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program. Savvy planning efforts guided by the “Baton Rouge Riverfront Master Plan: Reconnecting to the River” have led to enormous progress in the city’s downtown.
In 2009 the City-Parish of Baton Rouge, through its Downtown Development District, debuted a new downtown riverfront master plan — a component of Baton Rouge’s comprehensive master plan, “Plan Baton Rouge.” This downtown revitalization implements the comprehensive master plan’s critical themes of establishing a greener, more active downtown, with better access to the river and neighborhoods. The redesigned downtown added over one acre of green space to the downtown area, fulfilling a key component of the City’s master plan recommendations. The redesign particularly focused on pedestrian access and connectivity to cultural and municipal amenities and institutions. This unified downtown plan highlights the important surrounding cultural and civic buildings, including:
- City Hall
- River Center Library
- The Old State Capitol
- Shaw Center for the Arts
- Louisiana Art and Science Museum
- River Center Campus
- 19th Judicial District Courthouse
- River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts
- Two existing downtown hotels
The new open layout effectively creates a visual sight-line of the State Capitol via Fourth Street. Approximately a half-mile from the newly opened 19th Judicial District Courthouse, visitors to the unified town square have an unobstructed view of the Louisiana State Capitol, providing a design visual of our State’s checks and balances: where law is written to where it is enforced. The courthouse’s flag pole is slightly off-center from the building, designed to line up exactly with the front door of the State Capitol.
TMG observed a number of downtown improvements and was pleased to learn that Baton Rouge’s newly completed town square has received approximately a dozen national and international awards. The downtown features curbless intersections, designed to enable safe and easy movement by the myriad of downtown pedestrians including large crowds, water features with bands of light in the pavement and soft lighting overhead, café seating, benches and game tables. In the center, Beacon Plaza features a 35-foot high multi-media tower displaying local information such as upcoming events, transit and weather information, and news.
The new green space downtown includes the redesigned Galvez Plaza, which added a permanent stage to provide an outdoor community entertainment venue. Particularly notable in the redesign is the stage canopy, “The Crest,” an engineering sculpture that functions as both public art and a support structure, with a detachable suspended truss system for the lighting and electrical systems required for concerts. The Crest has won awards from both The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The stage creates a central event venue for public concerts and entertainment including the “Live after Five Concert Series,” connecting North Boulevard Town Square to the City Hall campus.
TMG Consulting also observed Baton Rouge Downtown Development District’s “The Walls Project.” The Walls Project leverages private and public resources to create innovative and sustainable public art projects. The mission of this downtown public art initiative is to stimulate the creative arts economy through public art that inspires urban and rural beautification, dialogue, and unity. The Walls Project has currently installed seven artworks in the downtown area.
Baton Rouge’s newly developed riverfront and downtown area is an exemplar of the successful implementation of the master planning process, catering to the needs of the surrounding community and re-establishing the downtown as the cultural and civic center of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Rachael Bauer, Associate
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