Our Views: A downtown back to life

“Welcome home!” That was the greeting from Mayor-President Kip Holden to Andres Duany, the Miami planner and native of Cuba. Home, in Baton Rouge?

Absolutely, as Duany’s vision and sheer salesmanship of urban redesign helped spark the revitalization of downtown Baton Rouge. In 15 years, the Plan Baton Rouge visions have been accomplished to a remarkable degree.

While it is still a work in progress, the planners’ emphasis on downtown living is coming along nicely, with the announcement of more than 100 new apartments in the past few months alone.

The city’s new master plan, FutureBR, grows from the concepts and undeniable successes of the Duany-led vision for the city in 1998.

If the mayor was welcoming him home, Duany told the Smart Growth Summit audience that he came this time as a student, not as a teacher. Touring the city with Downtown Development Director Davis Rhorer, Duany said, was a long series of his questions about how this project got done, and how the funding was put together for this other project.

Duany and Victor Dover keynoted the summit of the Center for Planning Excellence, a Baton Rouge nonprofit that has helped to spread the smart-growth gospel around the state. Both planners pointed to not only Plan Baton Rouge but CPEX’s regional planning efforts as models that can be profitably taken up by cities and states elsewhere.

We want Baton Rouge to continue to punch above its weight in urbanism. If not as big or historic as the Crescent City down the river, Louisiana’s capital city is nevertheless contributing to a renewed appreciation for the walkable and vibrant city life that was lost in America sometime after World War II.