The LSU Center for River Studies, boasting a state-of-the-art physical model of the Mississippi River, officially opened its doors today as the latest phase of the Water Campus, which aims to become the hub for coastal research in the region.
The $18 million center will house full-time researchers as well as graduate and undergraduate students, and serves as the most significant research component of the Water Campus, which sits just south of the Mississippi River Bridge downtown. It is the third of several planned buildings to open at the 35-acre development.
Officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today touted an interactive, physical model of the Mississippi River, about the size of an NBA basketball court, that researchers will use to study, among other things, the impacts of sediment diversions. Those projects are a key facet in the state’s quest to reverse the erosion of Louisiana’s coast.
“There’s not another like it anywhere in the world,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said of the interactive model.
State and higher education officials painted the new development as a vital step toward solving the state’s coastal land loss crisis, and Edwards noted his administration’s recent agreement with the White House to speed up permitting for the Mid-Barataria sediment diversion project. Initially on a “fast track” that would have given the state permits in five years, the project now should be permitted by the end of 2019, the governor said.
“Just to have the White House committed to using this project as an example of how to do infrastructure … I think is critically important,” he said.
While most significant for the state’s coastal efforts, the Water Campus has been pitched locally as a key economic development generator in the Nicholson Drive corridor between downtown and LSU. When finished, it is expected to feature a host of business offices, retailers and apartments. The signature building—the Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions—opened late last year on the former city dock. That building is now home to the Water Institute of the Gulf and Waterworking, a shared co-working space on the first floor that opened this week. The Estuary, a large event center overlooking the river, is on the third floor.
The next phase of the Water Campus, which will include a multi-tenant office building and 20 “loft-style” apartments, is expected to break ground in late spring or early summer.