CPEX bringing Better Block BR demonstration to Perkins Road overpass area next month
Three years after reworking a stretch of Government Street in Mid City to show residents how the area could be more pedestrian friendly, the Center for Planning Excellence is bringing its Better Block BR initiative to the Perkins Road overpass area.
When residents along Perkins Road see the demonstration, set to take place April 22-24, the area may hardly be recognizable. Perkins Road will be landscaped with newly-planted trees. A BREC pocket park will appear in an empty lot at the corner of Perkins and Ferndale Avenue, and there will be on-street parallel parking.
All of this will be temporarily placed along the popular stretch of restaurants, bars and shops to give residents and business owners an idea of what the highly-traveled corridor could look like in the future.
“It can be done within the existing space,” says Camille Manning-Broome, senior vice president of planning and installation for CPEX. “We’re going to reconfigure what’s there with the existing space.”
CPEX, which is conducting the Better Block BR demonstration with the city-parish and area neighborhood associations, released on Friday a draft of the changes designers and planners have recommended to make the area safer for pedestrians and drivers.
City-parish engineers also have been planning changes to make the area safer.
CPEX received a $20,000 grant from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors and the Credit Bureau of Baton Rouge Foundation to create and implement the Better Block BR demonstration.
Following the event, CPEX will give reports to the city-parish and neighborhood organizations, and conduct resident surveys to stakeholders can begin working to bring the vision to fruition, Manning-Broome says.
The main safety improvements are the addition of parallel parking spots and the use of landscaping to create access points to parking lots, Manning-Broome says. The latter is needed because there are no visible markers showing where the entry points into some of the parking lots are or where it is safe for pedestrians to walk, Manning-Broome says. The former is needed because many of the storefront parking spaces along Perkins require drivers to back out into a busy stretch of the roadway.
Other facets of the plan, which could change over the next six weeks, include the installation of about 10 highly visible crosswalks along Perkins Road at Christian Street, Hollydale and Ferndale avenues; improving and cleaning the walking path under the Perkins Road overpass; and creating a one-way loop on the north part of Christian Street to tie into Greenwood Avenue and a side road that runs in front of City Pork and George’s.
The plan is also supported by a walking audit conducted by AARP Louisiana, Manning-Broome says. Some of the facets of the Better Block BR plan come from ideas national experts included in that report.
CPEX and city-parish traffic engineers held two meetings with area business owners about two weeks ago to answer questions, allay fears that the changes would negatively impact their businesses and gauge their feelings about the changes. Manning-Broome says the owners she has spoken with are 100% on board and excited to help.
CPEX has also spoken with other groups about lending a hand. Manning-Broome says they have talked to members of the BR Walls Project about painting some murals along the walls under the overpass and Varsity Sports has also expressed an interest in helping to clean up the trail to make it better for runners.
Casey Phillips, founder of the BR Walls project, says the group is excited about participating in the initiative, and are waiting to get some more information from CPEX before deciding on what designs they may incorporate into the project.
“We’re trying to do our part,” Phillips says.