As Mayor Kip Holden’s administration comes to a close, so does land use planning consultant John Fregonese’s long-running relationship with local government—at least for now. The last of Fregonese’s multiple contracts with the city-parish—this one, to revise portions of the zoning code—ends Dec. 31.
Over the last eight years, Fregonese and his Portland, Oregon-based firm, Fregonese Associates, has been instrumental in numerous planning projects for the city-parish, primarily as the architect of the FuturEBR master plan for land use and development. Several subsequent contracts followed.
Altogether, since 2009 the firm has been paid more than $2.6 million by the city-parish for its work here, according to the Department of Finance.
“We love Baton Rouge and we love working there,” Fregonese says. “We have a real commitment to the community. It feels like a second home to me.”
Fregonese actually began working in south Louisiana prior to 2009. He was brought to the area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by the Center for Planning Excellence to prepare a regional master plan called Louisiana Speaks. That was followed by several local master plans for West Feliciana, East Feliciana, Pointe Coupee and Lafourche parishes. The firm also did a coastal sustainability plan.
But the $1 million FuturEBR was Fregonese’s signature project in the area, one that promised to address some of the problems—lack of connectivity and walkability, chief among them—that have made Baton Rouge a city of sprawl and gridlock. The plan was put together after a yearlong series of community meetings and charettes.
When that contract ended in 2011, the city-parish hired Fregonese to come back in 2013 to help implement the plan and begin revising the city-parish zoning code so that the laws on the books would dovetail with the goals outlined in the plan.
Additionally, the firm was awarded contracts by the city-parish to do work on the streetcar line planned for Nicholson Drive and to come up with a plan for downtown parking. It was also hired by the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority to prepare a plan for the former Entergy site at 1609 Government St., which is envisioned as a catalyst for redevelopment of the blighted area between downtown and Mid City.
“It’s been amazing to see the change in Baton Rouge since Katrina,” says Fregonese. “I’m honored to have been a part of its history.”
Fregonese is no stranger to Louisiana. His grandmother, a noted actress and movie star in the mid-20th century, was from New Orleans and he frequently visited the state as a child. Since working in Baton Rouge he says he has cultivated many friendships and would like to continue being a part of the area’s planning efforts under Mayor-elect Sharon Weston Broome’s administration.
“I’d love for that happen,” he says. “But you never assume anything.”