Design guidelines, transit plans coming from FutureBR

New design guidelines for East Baton Rouge Parish, a high-capacity transit plan for Nicholson Drive and a plan to improve streets to make them cater to pedestrians and cyclists should go before the city-parish Planning Commission this fall.

The design guidelines, Nicholson Corridor and the Complete Streets plans stem from FutureBR, the city-parish master land-use plan. John Fregonese, the planner who is helping to implement FutureBR, was in Baton Rouge on Wednesday to unveil the plans to members of the Metro Council and Planning Commission and conduct public hearings on the guidelines.

Two public meetings are set for Thursday: one from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. headquarters at 9696 Plank Road, the other from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Bluebonnet Library at 9200 Bluebonnet Blvd.

Fregonese said the plan is to take the comments from the public at the meetings, use them to make revisions to the plans, then bring them before the Planning Commission in the fall.

“We want to make sure the FutureBR plan is not sitting on the shelf,” Fregonese said. “We want to make sure growth is balanced.”

The design plan is meant to simplify and make standards more predictable for the public and parish workers. All properties in the parish will be located in one of five design levels: basic, suburban, walkable, urban center and urban core.

“The tools are pretty simple, there’s not a lot of intervention in terms of design,” Fregonese said. The standards will “right-size” the amount of parking in the city-parish.

Complete Streets will work along with the new design guidelines, in promoting urban developments that are friendly to drivers and pedestrians.

“We’re looking beyond the street function in just carrying traffic, we’re looking at the whole package,” Fregonese said.

The “whole package” for the Nicholson Corridor includes recommendations for a high-capacity transit system connecting downtown and LSU. Fregonese cited developments such as IBM’s downtown service center, the residential tower going up next to it, The Water Campus coastal research center and the mixed-use River District development as projects that make a transit system necessary.

While Fregonese has discussed the possibility of connecting the areas by a streetcar line, he said there are other possibilities, such as a bus rapid-transit system, which combines the efficiency of streetcars with the flexibility of buses, or expanded CATS service between the two areas.