Cameron St. slated for Better Block project

A project later this month will offer a vision of Cameron Street transformed into an attractive and vibrant business district with plenty of room for pedestrians and bicycles.

Better Block Cameron, set for July 19, will bring Cameron Street down to two lanes between Poydras and Martha streets, with the third lane set aside for foot and bike traffic in a one-day demonstration project.

Existing businesses and pop-up shops will offer food, crafts and other wares.

The block is just east of the so-called Four Corners intersection of University Avenue and Cameron Street, once a center of commercial and cultural activity.

“Four Corners used to be a hot spot, a happening area, but it’s lost that,” said Rachel DeCuir, who is helping organize the event.

She is among a contingent of residents working to revitalize the Cameron Street corridor in that area.

“One of the major goals of Better Block … is to show them what we envision Cameron Street could look like,” DeCuir said.

Better Block projects have been popping up throughout the country in recent years, efforts to give real-life examples of how a street or section of town can be transformed.

“We can show it. It’s tangible,” DeCuir said.

Lafayette’s first Better Block project was May 31 on a small section of Bertrand Drive north of Johnston Street.

The road was reduced from four lanes to two, makeshift sidewalks and bike lanes filled in the extra space and potted trees lined the road.

Pop-up businesses and food trucks set up shop, and a fenced grassy area under a city water tower served as a dog park.

City-parish government sponsored the Bertrand project with the hope residents in other areas of the city would look to it as a model, said City-Parish Chief Development Officer Kevin Blanchard.

“We sort of took the lead on the first one, because we wanted to show what it looks like,” Blanchard said.

He said the Bertrand project has led to discussions with the state Department of Transportation and Development about possible modifications to the roadway, though no decisions have been made.

The Cameron Street project is being organized by local residents, not city-parish government, and DeCuir said she and others began planning it even before the event on Bertrand, spurred by a presentation held in Lafayette in mid-May on what some have called the Better Block “movement.”

She recalled an epiphany in the middle of the presentation: “Oh! Cameron Street needs this.”

DeCuir said the event on Cameron will be a bit different than what residents saw on Bertrand, which had more of a block party feel.

“We are really trying to focus on the local neighborhood economy and bring that to the forefront,” DeCuir said.

Showing how the road could be more friendly to pedestrians and bicycles will still be a critical component.

“There is no safe way of going down Cameron without being on top of traffic or without traffic being on top of you,” DeCuir said.

Blanchard said Better Block projects and similar efforts are crucial if residents are to take the lead in local redevelopment efforts.

“This is another grass-roots movement to make change happen,” he said.

For information on the July 19 event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including how to participate, email info@ascowc.com.

Three neighborhood organizations are involved in the planning: the Bridge Neighborhood Association, Townfolk and LaPlace Coterie.