A more open park, possibly with an outdoor event or performance space, could soon be created across Perdido Street from City Hall as the Downtown Development District begins considering how to redesign Duncan Plaza.

The proposal, approved by the City Council last week, will involve public participation, planning and fundraising over the next year before any actual work at the site begins, DDD President and CEO Kurt Weigle said.

The redesign of the four-acre area the DDD will be looking at, which does not include the strip of state-owned land near the parking garage behind the park, is part of the organization’s effort to add “more and better” green space downtown, Weigle said.

Duncan Plaza sits in a part of what the DDD considers to be the downtown medical district that has not seen as much of a boom as the rest of the area, Weigle said. Redeveloping the park could serve as a “catalyst” for further economic development in that part of the district, he said.

Duncan Plaza was created in the 1950s as a central public space for the Civic Center, consisting of five major state and local government buildings spread out along Loyola Avenue from Poydras Street to Tulane Avenue. Two of the buildings have since been demolished. 

While the details of the redesign will be worked out through public meetings and discussions, Weigle said a key part of the plan will likely be removing the berms, or ridges, that rise above the central area of the plaza.

“A definite problem right now is the berms in the middle that obstruct the views into and out of the park,” Weigle said. “It contributes to a sense that the park is not safe, despite the fact that I can’t remember any incident (of crime) in the park.”

Weigle said the redesign also could add a new outdoor event space for the Central Business District.

“Lafayette Square has really taken a beating in the last 10 years or so because it’s such a wonderful space and a lot of people want to use it for events. But it was never designed to be that type of a park,” Weigle said.

Because of the relatively small size of Duncan Plaza, Weigle said, ball fields or other active recreation would likely not fit in the redeveloped park.

The “lion’s share” of the funding for the work will come from the private sector and the DDD does not anticipate that any city funds will be used, he said.

The DDD will be responsible for managing the park under an agreement with the city that was approved unanimously by the City Council. That agreement calls for a 20-year lease, with options for two extensions that would add a total of 40 years to the agreement.

The exact details of the lease are still being worked out.

Hundreds of homeless people took up residence in Duncan Plaza for a couple of years after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, given its proximity to City Hall, it has been a popular site for protests and rallies. That’s been particularly true in recent months, and the park has become a popular starting or end point for marches protesting various policies of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Weigle said the DDD will not try to curtail that part of the park’s use.

“It’s fair to say that this agreement would not be in place if we had not made a commitment to continue to support that kind of activity in the park,” Weigle said.

“Being someone who loves that part of what it means to be an American, I’d never look to curtail that in any way,” he added. “It’s something we’re looking to celebrate along with all the other uses in the park.”

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​