Public to have say on proposed Nicholson streetcar project later this month

    Mayor Kip Holden and other city-parish officials will hold a public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28, at the River Center to give the public a chance to voice their opinion on three downtown routes being considered for the proposed Nicholson Drive streetcar project, TramLinkBR, that would link downtown and LSU.

    Rannah Gray announced the public meeting at this morning’s Downtown Development District Board of Commissioner’s meeting on behalf of HNTB Corporation, the architectural, engineering and planning firm selected to lead the project. She said development is being fast-tracked by federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and public input is needed on the routes because federal funding will be used for the modern streetcar system.

    As previously reported by Daily Report, Foxx met with Holden and other city leaders in November while in town to speak at the Center for Planning Excellence’s Smart Growth Summit, and pledged to push for full funding in 2016-2017 federal budget.

    The long-proposed project would pass by The Water Campus and Old South Baton Rouge. It is unclear how much the 3.2-mile project would cost, but estimates have put the total price tag around $100 million.

    The public meeting will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 in River Center rooms 9 and 10.

    Also during this morning’s session, Ted Jack, BREC’s assistant superintendent of planning, operations and resources, said the agency must move its Sports Academy from the gym inside city-parish Department of Public Works facility to BREC’s renovated Spanish Town Park.

    The city-parish needs the space at the DPW facility, but has given BREC as long as necessary to relocate. Jack said the projected cost for the new Sports Academy, which will be modeled after some multipurpose sporting facilities around the country, is about $7.5 million. To make the full scope of the project a reality, however, BREC is working to acquire about three acres of land surrounding the park.

    Jack said BREC officials have spoken to the various landowners in the surrounding area about purchasing that land. To help bring the full scope of the project to bear, BREC is also working to build a coalition of stakeholders to help. Jack said former LSU basketball players Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas have pledged their support for the project because they played at the Sports Academy as youngsters.

    “It’s a sweet spot for them in their heart,” Jack said.

    Other items of note from this morning’s DDD meeting:

    • Gaudet Bros. Salon will move from its Government Street location into a 700-square-foot space inside the Commerce Building at the corner of Laurel and North Third streets sometime in the second quarter of 2016. The traditional barber shop becomes the second business to move into the Commerce Building, following Magpie Café. Vicknair said 2,200 square feet of retail space remains available.
    • Business First Bank will be moving its headquarters into the A. Hays Town’s old Union Federal Savings and Loan Building at 500 Laurel Street that is being renovated by Dyke Nelson. Using tax credits available with the National Register of Historic Places, Nelson said the building is being restored to its former glory, including reopening a rooftop terrace that had been enclosed and the return of a clear glass storefront.

    —Ryan Broussard

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