Remember those super-ambitious plans to turn a former railway into a 3-mile park running from Lakeview to the French Quarter? Now that new contracts have been signed, the project is finally getting some legs. The Lafitte Corridor revitalization project — which will develop bike paths, green spaces, community gardens, "green rooms" for events, and other features — begins its community meetings tonight.
Bart Everson, president of the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor, told Gambit in March that these meetings are a huge part of the planning process. "(The corridor) goes through a number of different neighborhoods, and people presumably coming from different areas and backgrounds are going to have different ideas about the process," he said. "The greenway has to reflect the communities' desires or it's not going to be successful. It's our role to make sure the process at this stage is an honest, open, transparent process and the community really is engaged."
In November 2009, the city picked Austin, Texas landscape architecture and urban planning firm Design Workshop for the project, backed in part by an $11.6 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). An audit by the Department of Housing and Urban Development screened all projects using CDBG funds, so in January 2010, the city prematurely terminated its contract with Design Workshop. Then-incoming Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked Mayor Ray Nagin to freeze all city contracts. So by the end of Nagin's term, no bidder had been selected for the project — but when the project was rebid, Design Workshop was re-selected in August 2010.
"We don't foresee it as just another tourist attraction," said Design Workshop's Steven Spears. "It'll be something more profound. Tourists and locals will be able to use and enjoy (the greenway) for alternative transportation (and) recreation."
The project team, led by Spears, is made up of urban planners, engineers, architects, and environmental consultants. Topics for community meetings include recreational programs, housing, job opportunities, arts, environment and health, and transportation.
The "Lafitte Corridor Connection" meetings being today at 4:30 p.m. at Sojourner Truth Community Center (2200 Lafitte St.) and continue through Aug. 19. There also are open house-type events from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily all week, where you can stop by and check the project's process and suggest ideas. Those open houses are at Sojourner Truth as well as Grace Episcopal Church (3700 Canal St.).
Hit the the jump for the full schedule.
Meetings begin at 4:30 p.m. at Sojourner Truth Community Center (2200 Lafitte St.)
Monday, Aug. 15: Recreational Activities and Programming AND Corridor Education, Employment and Jobs Opportunities
Tuesday, Aug. 16: Greenway Arts and Interpretive AND Transportation, Stormwater, and Infrastructure
Wednesday, Aug. 17: Land Use and Urban Design AND Housing and Economic Development Strategies
Thursday, Aug. 18: Financing, Operations and Maintenance
Friday, Aug. 19: Health and Environment
A general community meeting on the project will be held at 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 20 at Delgado Community College's Student Life Center (615 City Park Avenue).
Two more weeks of workshops scheduled for November 2011 and February 2012 will be announced soon.