Work on two downtown parks, greenway set to begin

The Downtown Development District plans to extend Repentance Park to better connect it to the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and begin work on turning all of City Hall Plaza into a green lawn.

The assistant executive director for the DDD, Gabe Vicknair, told commissioners Tuesday the plan is to finish the Repentance Park work by the end of summer. The work would close the gap between the park and the LASM, turning a 40-foot by 100-foot section of land into a park, while putting a bike path and planting trees in front of the museum.

“We want to make it easier to cross between the park and the LASM,” Vicknair said.

A draft contract for the work has been sent to Reed Hilderbrand Associates, the Massachusetts firm that redeveloped Repentance Park. Vicknair said the work will cost about $170,000 and will be paid for by a rebate of state sales taxes collected downtown.

At the same time work is finishing on the Repentance Park extension, the first phase of the Downtown Greenway should also be completed.

The greenway is a bike path that will eventually connect City Park to Memorial Stadium. Vicknair said the first phase will link City-Brooks Community Park to North Boulevard Town Square.

The DDD has $3 million in federal funds to build that section of park. The greenway will tie into the bike paths at the top of the Mississippi River levee via an access point at Florida Street and River Road. Vicknair said work will begin later this month on the access point.

“We’re going to see some projects done that we’ve been excited about for a long time,” he said.

While construction is going on at Repentance Park and the greenway, plans will be underway to turn the last section of City Hall Plaza into a green space. The area from the Galvez Plaza stage to North Boulevard already has been turned into a green space. Vicknair said the next step is to do the same for the land behind the stage.

“This will give us the same atmosphere as Galvez Plaza,” he said. “But we’ll be able to fit three times as many people for large outdoor concerts.”

The project is estimated to cost $3 million, while the six-month planning process will cost $310,000. The goal is to get planning done in 2014.

“We want to get the planning knocked out and have everything shovel-ready while we’re working on funding,” Vicknair said.