This weekend, I finally got around to watching the documentary Urbanized, which came out last October and does a pretty admiral job of condensing Urban Design 101 into an 85-minute film. It's packed full of examples of smart growth and great and bad urban planning. For one thing, I learned that Bogotá, Columbia, does a better job at addressing public transportation than most American cities.
I also learned that New York City's High Line is still under construction, even though the first section opened to the public in 2009, and the second opened last year. Just this week, the city got the rights to the last portion of the unused elevated rail line to start on the final section.
The park was a huge success story for a community-led public project, when so many infrastructure projects these days are tied to developers and public/private endeavors. It made me wonder what our local equivalent is or could be?
The idea is being replicated in other cities, and on a grander scale, like Atlanta's BeltLine. In New Orleans, the ambitious Lafitte Corridor continues to make headway, and its master plan used the High Line as a model. Back in 1992, the St. Tammany Parish government began what's still Louisiana's first and only rails-to-trails system, Tammany Trace—and it remains a popular and attractive trailway. Earlier this year, Lafayette welcomed the first phase of the Attakapas Ishak trail, essentially a shared bike lane running from downtown to Beaver Park, near the airport. Fully realized, the trail will continue to towns in St. Martin Parish and run off-street along the wildlife refuge of Lake Martin.
This movement toward public spaces that link neighborhoods is nothing new, and serves as a boon for cities in terms of increased property values and investments in new development. Here in Baton Rouge, we've got the levee bike path, which runs from downtown past Brightside Drive. It's an excellent path, and makes use of an existing structure, though it lacks any decent access points downtown for cyclists. I've also yet to see anyone address the prospect of continuing the path north to Southern University, which has some of the best views of the river, but is also separated by an eyesore of an industrial zone that isn't particularly inviting to outdoor enthusiasts.
A future opportunity is the Downtown Greenway, part of the Future BR master plan, which would link City Park to Memorial Stadium and run partially under Interstate 110 (see the Feasibility and Cost Study here). It's a great plan to connect several parks, and also revitalize areas that were negatively impacted by construction of the interstate so many years ago.
Do these projects have the potential to be as successful as the High Line? Maybe. I’m curious what other neglected or unused corridors can be turned into inviting pedestrian pathways. Where else could this happen in Baton Rouge? Give us your comments below.
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