Drivers on a stretch of Government Street this weekend will get a look at what the street could look like if changes are made to transform the area into a more “livable” place.
Vegetation, a bike lane, and ample crosswalks will be installed on a two-block stretch of the busy artery Saturday and Sunday as part of the city’s Better Block Program Demonstration.
The goal of the program, according to John Price, one of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s top aides, is to show what could be done to make the street more “livable.”
The street’s normal four lanes of traffic will be reduced to three lanes — one in each direction with a turn lane in the middle — between Bedford and Beverly Drives just west of Acadian Thruway. A six-foot-wide bike lane will be installed and there will be crosswalks for pedestrians, Price said.
Nearly 300 shrubs and 70 trees will be placed along the street to make it more attractive, Price said.
More than two dozen “pop-up” businesses will be there, along with the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission setting up a “parklet,” he said.
The idea behind the demonstration is that when you slow down the traffic through an area, it creates opportunities for businesses.
“It’s part of making the city more liveable,” Price said. “All these major streets: Bourbon in New Orleans, Beale in Memphis, Sixth Street in Austin, developed when the traffic slowed down.”
The Better Block program began in Dallas and Price said it has the power to transform streets.
“We think there is the opportunity for much more commerce in that area,” he said. “We think this is a strategic area that could bring in a restaurant or a cafe.”
Despite the demonstration’s temporary “pop-up” businesses, food trucks and other vendors, Price insisted that this weekend’s effort is a demonstration.
“This is not a block party,” he said.
Local groups, including the Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance, the Center for Planning Excellence and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber have all endorsed the effort, according to the Better Block BR Web site.
If the public feedback is good, the city-parish would need to implement the Complete Streets program, Price said.
Complete Streets, which was already approved by the Metro Council as part of the FutureBR land-use plan, would require that any street under construction or revitalization plan for non-vehicular traffic such as pedestrians, bicyclists and those who ride public transportation, Price said.
Camille Manning-Broome, CPEX’s Director of Planning, said getting Complete Streets implemented is crucial.
“The roadway should not only accommodate vehicular traffic,” she said. “To have a successful city and a community that has a sense of place, you need to allow for pedestrians, bicyclists and bus systems.”
Better Block BR would be a small glimpse of that, she said.
The demonstration will last from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, according to a news release.