BR recreates idea of downtown park

Nearly a century after Baton Rouge voters first designated space near the intersection Florida Boulevard and Seventh Street as a park monument to World War I veterans, the area will once again be home to recreational space.

Victory Park, eight blocks of ponds, lawns and flower beds, stretched along Florida Boulevard from Seventh to 15th Street, was approved by voters in 1919 and opened in 1921.

But subsequent development, including the construction of Interstate 110 and the new Federal Courthouse, eroded the park’s footprint.

Wednesday, BREC and local officials officially opened Convention Street Park, a three-quarters of an acre space at the intersection of Convention and Seventh streets on the site of an old Continental Trailways bus terminal.

The federal government donated land for the park to BREC at the behest of former U.S. Rep Richard Baker.

Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker, whose district includes downtown, said the park would be great for residents of Spanish Town and Beauregard Town.

“This is an awesome opportunity for these two neighborhoods,” she said. “Being able to have this green space is good for people not only who live downtown but who work downtown.”

The park features flower beds, a seating wall, benches, a pergola and an open lawn, but Wicker said her favorite feature was the 90-foot-long mural along a wall on the park’s northwest corner.

The mural, painted by artists Alex Harvie and T.J. Black as part of the Baton Rouge Walls Project, depicts scenes from Spanish and Beauregard Town as well as downtown and features a Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade, the St. Patrick’s Day parade and the farmers’ market.

Harvie and Black spent about 30 hours painting the mural, Harvie said.

“We really wanted the areas stitched together by the parades,” he said. “We wanted to make it something that would be timeless.”

Executive Director of the Downtown Development District Davis Rhorer, whose agency was a partner with BREC on the project, said it is a welcome addition to downtown.

“In a sea of concrete, to have this green space is awesome,” he told those who gathered for the chilly opening Wednesday morning.

The park was first conceived as part of the Plan Baton Rouge initiative in the late 1990’s, Rhorer said. Plan Baton Rouge identified Seventh Street as the ideal corridor between Spanish Town and Beauregard Town, he said.

Construction of the park cost approximately $250,000 and was paid for through BREC’s “Imagine Your Parks” tax passed by voters in 2004.