Stretch of River Road downtown to become more pedestrian friendly

    Sidewalks are coming to River Road downtown, at least to a four-block stretch of the thoroughfare between Florida Street and the IBM building that’s under development at  Lafayette and North streets.

    The Metro Council on Wednesday evening approved a $126,000 grant to create a tree-lined pedestrian thoroughfare on the east side of the street, which will be across from a bike lane already planned for the west side.

    The project is one of several downtown beautification efforts discussed this morning at the monthly meeting of the Downtown Development District Board of Commissioners. Also highlighted was an international art competition to design a signature piece of original art that would be placed on the downtown riverfront at Florida Street and serve as a gateway to the area.

    The $350,000 competition, which was announced last month, is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge’s Centennial Committee and will be managed by the Boston-based consulting group CODAworx. DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer says CODAworx will begin accepting RFPs for the project April 1 and that they are due April 30. The selection process begins May 15, with the winning team selected by Oct. 15.

    “It’s really a defining element for downtown and the city,” Rhorer says. “Florida and River Road is really where the downtown greenway begins and ends. It’s the center of downtown.”

    Also at the DDD meeting this morning:

    • Commercial Properties spokesperson Tina Rance told the board that IBM is on schedule to move into its new office building on River Road in May, and that residential units in the adjoining 525 Lafayette building will be open this fall.
    • The former Latil’s Stationery building in the 300 block of Third Street will open within the next few weeks as The Watermark, a reception and banquet hall. Local restaurateur Andy Blouin and partner Sean Malone acquired the property in late 2011 for $815,000 and have been working on plans to redevelop the 12,000-square foot space since 2013.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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