Our Views: Great streets for Louisiana

One cannot absolutely guarantee new projects that beautify and enhance major streets in New Orleans and Baton Rouge will pay off in terms of new investment by the private sector.

Yet we are confident they will, particularly on Government Street and on Esplanade Avenue, because of literally hundreds of examples around the country where smart growth policies have worked.

Make a street not only look good but make it useful for a streetcar or bikers and walkers, and you have a recipe for a street that is going to improve property values and make higher quality development not only possible but much more likely.

In Baton Rouge, the remaking of Government Street into a model “complete street,” including bike lanes that will run through the capital’s midcity neighborhoods, will be a positive development.

“I believe these improvements will bring an exciting new energy to one of Baton Rouge’s truly great streets,” Mayor-President Kip Holden said. It is made possible with state investment, as Government is a state highway, but city-parish government will be in charge of maintaining its new look.

It is not only in Baton Rouge that cities are making complete streets possible. New Orleans has an ordinance on smart rebuilding of streets since the hurricanes of 2005, and it is also taking steps on Esplanade Avenue to showcase one of the city’s trademarks, the avenue’s neutral ground.

The diminished canopy of oak trees above Rampart Street is a far cry from what it used to be, and a $450,000 federal grant will help to restore it.

Beauty is a genuine value. Like the dramatic oak canopy of St. Charles Avenue, one of New Orleans’ world-famous sights, the boulevards of the city are an asset worth investing in.

In Lafayette, a new city master plan is working on improving the city’s traffic flow, and Lafayette Consolidated Government — working with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — has made biking around the campus safer and more convenient. The UL-Lafayette campus master plan is a part of a larger vision for Lafayette.

These are all positive developments that point the way toward a more sophisticated approach to urban planning, particularly in oft-neglected urban cores.

More housing and business development in these areas takes advantage of existing infrastructure and thus saves taxpayers’ money. But again and again across the country, it is the quality of a street — not just the quantity of lanes — that drives “in-fill” investment.

We are pleased to see Louisiana cities taking a lead in smart redevelopment.