BR showcases Repentance Park upgrades

Downtown transitioning into destination

The newly renovated downtown Repentance Park was unveiled Tuesday, displaying a $3.9 million facelift with 2 acres of green space and modern water fountains.

The park, wedged between Baton Rouge City Hall and the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, will serve as the temporary venue for the popular Live after Five spring concert series that is typically hosted in the adjacent Galvez Plaza.

The Galvez Plaza stage is unavailable for concert use because the architectural stage cover is behind schedule. The final piece of the $900,000 stainless steel statue was sent back to the manufacturers for resizing a second time because it did not fit, said Davis Rhorer, director of the Downtown Development District.

Rhorer said the 35-foot-tall statue, which is being called “The Crest” and resembles a curved oval, will be finished by the end of May. It was initially projected to be completed in February.

Live after Five kicks off Friday featuring the New Orleans band Phunky Monkeys. The series ends May 24.

The park is the latest of several downtown projects, including the North Boulevard Town Square and Galvez Plaza improvements, that were funded through the state sales tax rebates dedicated to Riverfront projects.

Rhorer also announced that later this month, bids will open for the next downtown project — providing improved pedestrian and bike access to the Riverfront from Florida Street. The project is estimated to cost $1.1 million, Rhorer said, and will be funded with federal and state grants.

Mayor-President Kip Holden said in an interview after the unveiling ceremony that parks and downtown improvements make Baton Rouge a more attractive city to businesses.

“One of the things a lot of businesses ask while we’re interviewing them is they’re looking for things for families,” he said. “When we recruit companies out there, we can showcase this park space as something the kids will truly love.”

Repentance Park has been under construction since February 2012. Most noticeably, the park’s large circular fountain has been removed and covered with grass. On the opposite side of the park, a more efficient fountain with 750 jets was built. The change will save the city-parish about $300,000 a year in maintenance costs, Holden said.

Councilwoman Tara Wicker, whose district encompasses downtown, said the improvements over the years have turned downtown Baton Rouge into a destination.

“They said no one is going to go downtown,” Wicker said. “Well downtown is quickly becoming the premier place to be.”

Kelly Francois kicked a soccer ball with her son in Repentance Park on Tuesday afternoon, as two of her other children relaxed in the grass.

The Oak Hills mother said her family regularly takes part in downtown festivals and activities.

“You can actually come down here and spend the day again like my dad did when he was growing up,” she said. “It’s quite an experience to get to bring my kids down here. It’s so much better than it used to be.”