The Downtown Development District announced funding has been approved this year for five construction projects, including adding 540 parking spots under the Interstate 10-Interstate 110 overpass and a sidewalk along River Road.
Davis Rhorer, executive director of the DDD, told commissioners Tuesday that the city-parish approved four different projects in its 2015 budget.
One project involves spending $250,000 to improve the Riverfront Plaza and Levee Green with new planters, lighting and an audio system. The goal is to develop an attraction adjacent to the Baton Rouge River Center, the USS Kidd and the Louisiana Art & Science Museum.
The second project getting $250,000 involves adding lighting under the interstate overpasses. By adding the lighting, Rhorer said, 540 free parking spots will become available for people who work or are visiting downtown. Plans are in the works to use CATS buses to shuttle people from under the interstate to the River Center or other spots downtown.
The DDD will receive $70,000 to refurbish and replace light fixtures along the Mississippi River promenade and $50,000 to improve wayfinding signs and downtown gateways.
Rhorer said he wants to see construction start on the projects “as soon as possible.”
The DDD also received a $156,000 grant from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to build a sidewalk along River Road from Florida Street to the IBM Building. Rhorer said the sidewalk will dovetail with efforts to improve bike paths from Florida Street to Hollywood Casino.
“River Road wasn’t a pleasant street,” Rhorer said. “We are making it much more human to walk down.”
In other business, the DDD Commission welcomed three new members: Melanie Montanaro, Cheryl McCormick and Gordon LeBlanc. The commission also elected officers for 2015. Fran Gladden was named chairwoman, while Ric Kearny will serve as vice chairman. The treasurer will be Scott Hensgens. Sevetri Wilson will be secretary.
Daniel Rhodes, general manager of the Hilton Capitol Center, told commissioners that the hotel is in the final stages of an $8 million renovation. Rhodes said the work involved completely renovating the 290 rooms in the hotel, replacing carpets, furnishings and fixtures, as well as overhauling the hotel lobby and bar.