Mid City business owners, residents and cyclists celebrated the announcement Wednesday that Government Street will be transformed into a bike and pedestrian friendly three-lane thoroughfare by the end of 2015.
Many expressed optimism that the changes would increase property values and attract business to an area which has long been economically stagnant.
Marsanne Golsby, a resident of the adjacent Ogden Park neighborhood since 2006, said Government Street changes would strengthen the sense of community for all of the neighborhoods that spill onto Government.
“It will improve our quality of life and be good for the economy,” she said. “It gives us our own little Magazine Street.”
Golsby said Ogden Park residents are committed to supporting local businesses like Radio Bar and other Mid City shops.
She said bike lanes will improve access to all the businesses, noting that “crossing Government Street on a bicycle is a nightmare” in its current configuration.
Travis Hans, owner of Mid City Bikes, said he benefits as both a cyclist and a Government Street business owner.
“I’m very excited, because as someone who has ridden every street in this city for many years, this is the one piece of street I always avoided,” Hans said. “I always found it very ironic that my shop ended up here.”
Beaux Jones, a board member for Bike Baton Rouge, said the announcement was a major win for cyclists. But even more signficantly, he said, establishing designated bike lanes on such a major thoroughfare is bound to encourage people who haven’t previously biked to give it a try.
“This is going to give people who have never been on a bike in Baton Rouge an opportunity to ride along Government Street, and the businesses and neighborhoods are really going to see a benefit from that,” he said.
Jim Urdiales, another Mid City resident, said the investment into the core of Baton Rouge could be a major catalyst for growth in the city while attracting new business to the area.
“Property values are going to go up, we’ll see more investment in businesses,” said Urdiales, who owns Mestizo’s restaurant on Acadian Thruway. “I have a dual interest because this is not only where I live, but as a business owner, this may be some place I want to invest in, so I’m beyond excited.”
Gordon Mese, owner of Garden District Nursery on Government Street, has been a vocal proponent of the project for decades, noting the importance of the urban Baton Rouge corridor.
“If there’s a piece of property for sale on Government Street, you better buy it today, because it just went up in value,” he said.
He said redeveloping Government Street connects many of the major projects happening across the city such as the IBM development downtown, the Water Campus down Nicholson Drive and the new Main Library in old Goodwood.
“It’s unbelievable how close we are to being great, because of this one project,” Mese said.