URBAN TRANSFORMATION

The following includes a number of projects which seek to positively transform areas within a city with sub-urban characteristics into vibrant urban places more befitting the term “city.”

[The latest projects are at the bottom, while projects that began at an earlier time are at the top.]

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Providing the framework for America’s next great city: a light rail transit system as a catalyst for sustainable urbanity

(above and below): The light rail system proposal maps are early stage plans and are intended to start a constructive dialogue about the many issues involved with such an expansive project.


The rail lines would mainly be street cars with segments of express railway in the median of larger roads, and travel through and connect “Densification Districts” which would be areas of intensive, high density mixed use development.  These districts should be completely walkable, intently developed seeds of sustainable urban density (minimum 7 dwelling units/acre and mixing of diverse commercial, all oriented toward pedestrians and the transit stops).  Over time, the points of sustainable density will become a web of sustainable density.

The draft plan as of August 2011 (bottom two maps) embraces the great potential for dense infill along the Florida Blvd corridor and the Government Street corridor.  These areas have been identified by the Future BR plan as the smartest, most easily and quickly transformable areas of Baton Rouge.  Also outlined in the Future BR plan, bus transit will be greatly enhanced, which would integrate with the light rail and service the voids in rail service.

With 12 trains per line (6 each direction), waiting times at stops should be between 5-10 minutes.

(above): Example of densification at the northern edge of LSU’s campus.

(above and below): Example light rail stops.  Remember, this site is run by an architectural designer first, and urban planner second.  So, expect to see not only urban plans, but sample components of those plans visually presented.

Your input is valued.  Leave comments about your routine Baton Rouge destinations, rail line logistical/route issues, aesthetic issues, urban condition concerns, etc.

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Baton Rouge – New Orleans High Speed MagLev; Baton Rouge Terminal Transit Oriented Development

The line would be primarily situated along the median of I-10.  The median of I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans offers already cleared land, and because it is mostly straight with few and gentle turns, the train would be able to reach top speed for much of the distance. (The proposed train would reach 250 – 280 mph).  With two lines beside eachother and one train per line, there would be a train departing every 40 minutes (it would take 40 minutes to travel from one end of the line to the other).  For this high speed connection to be feasible, it must be able to transport people faster than or equal to the time it would take to drive.  There is a significant amount of people living and working along the proposed line and many people in Baton Rouge regularly commute to New Orleans for entertainment and/or business.  Ridership would also come from the thrill of traveling at 250 – 280 mph.

The proposal calls for the following stops: Baton Rouge (Perkins/Acadian), Gonzales, Laplace, New Orleans International Airport, New Orleans CBD/French Quarter (Tulane Ave/Loyola Ave).

Why these locations?  Baton Rouge (Perkins/Acadian): High visibility from I-10; heavy traffic area; proximity to Louisiana State University; existing and potential residential and commercial composition of immediate area favors high patronage.  Gonzales (I-10/Hwy 30): collection point for commuters, high visibility from I-10.  Laplace (I-10/Hwy 51): collection point for commuters, high visibility from I-10.  New Orleans International Airport (Airline Hwy/Airport Rd): Airport.  New Orleans CBD/French Quarter (Tulane Ave/Loyola Ave):  Walkable access to French Quarter, Central Business District, LSU Medical District, and Superdome.

New Orleans is breaking ground on a Loyola Ave streetcar line in early 2011 and later will also construct a N. Rampart St streetcar line.  This exciting development makes the downtown New Orleans stop on the MagLev line extraordinarily feasible and desirable.

Work in progress on the Baton Rouge terminal development.

Work in progress on the Baton Rouge Terminal:  The terminal will consist of the MagLev station, and an interchange hub between the Maglev, Blue Line, and Purple Line.  The terminal will also serve as the MagLev logistical center and Maglev train maintenance house.  Most of the terminal’s exterior translucent panels could be photovoltaic.  The overall rail line proposal calls for embedding photovoltaic panels on all of the MagLev train’s monorail to help or possibly completely power the MagLev trains with solar power.

Work in progress on the transit oriented development adjacent to the Maglev Terminal:

The Proposal is for 16 1BR apartments, 26 2BR apartments, 30 3BR apartments, 8-10 retail units at 2000sf each, 20000 sf of class A office space, 100 room hotel, and a 700 space parking garage for the transit commuters, hotel guests, and office workers (garage to have recreational rooftop).  The MagLev train maintenance complex originally planned will be moved from this proposed site to either Gonzales or Laplace.  In its place will be a dedicated MagLev transit commuter parking facility (900 spaces).

Some of the 3BR apartments will be street side town houses, and most of the 2BR and 3BR units will be in a high rise tower (portions shown above) which will provide views of downtown, LSU, and the Perkins and Corporate Blvd areas.

(above): In focus is 20000 square feet of office with ground floor retail and two penthouse 3BR apartments on Acadian Thruway; also on Acadian are the 3BR Townhouses with private forecourts (below)

(above): The active street corner of Perkins Rd and Acadian Thwy consisting of roof top pool deck and recreational area for the tower residents; restaurant with balcony on the second floor; retail on the ground floor.  The corner also has ample space for regular vendors and perhaps occasional street market events.

(above): The Perkins Road side of the development features a colorful, modern take on plantation window shutters which will consist of 16 1BR and 6 2BR rentals, and up to 4 ground floor retail units.

(above): Aerial perspective of the transit oriented development (not final proposal – still in development).

Further development should focus on a high speed rail/MagLev connection from the Baton Rouge Terminal to the Texas high speed rail network via Houston, with stops in Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Beaumont (again along the I-10 median most of the length of the rail line).

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Cortana District Node

At the intersection of Airline Hwy and Florida Blvd, there is an incredible opportunity for world class innovation in urban transformation.  The most recent Baton Rouge Rail Transit plan has the Gold Line (Florida Blvd and Denham Springs Express) intersecting with the bus rapid transit line of Airline Hwy on the clover leaf roadway intersection that currently exists.  This section of the “Urban Transformation” page will explore the possibilities of a super node development in and above the clover leaf intersection – giving this heart of Baton Rouge location the significance, desirability, and transformational splendor it could have.

Most do not see clover leaf intersections as further developable, and most are located outside of urban centers, so they should remain simply vegetated anyway.  However, this clover leaf in Baton Rouge is sited in the heart of the city and at the intersection of two very significant transit lines, which presents a fascinating chance to create more than a transit interchange, but also an exciting node of business, residency, and recreational space.

(above): This conceptual plan sketch illustrates an elevated circular pedestrian promenade, which would be vegetated and enclose retail, offices and some residential.  Office and residential buildings and an outdoor performance theater are attached to the ring.  At the center point of the ring is the interchange of the Airline Hwy rapid bus line and the Florida Blvd rail line.  The rail line elevates above the roadway and bus line, and perhaps the rail line could also be elevated along most of Florida Blvd to provide better access to the stops from the parallel to-be-walkable service streets.

cortana node concept sketching

 

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City Park Lake Mixed Use Development (CPL-MUD)

One of Baton Rouge’s greatest assets is the area around City Park Lake and University Lake, or as the locals simply call them, “the LSU Lakes.”  While many use this area for recreation, exercise, or relaxing in the beautiful scene, only a very select few get to make this area home (or work).  On the northern shores of City Park Lake is the nine hole City Park Golf Course.  This has been a contentious use of that land, as recently evidenced by a petition to convert it into a multi-use park space, rather than the single use that it is currently.  As a matter of urban land use, the petition has is right.  This is in the center of a city – no place for such a large, single usage of land.  But rather than converting the whole golf course into a so-called multi-use park space, we could transform the land between the railroad tracks and the lake into a mixture of housing, retail, and offices that respect the mature, characterful neighborhood that surrounds the site.  It is almost exactly 1 million square feet of land, and the following will illustrate how we could stitch a progressive, high density mixed-use development into the urban and environmental fabric of one of Baton Rouge’s greatest places.  Because it is actually a “place,” and more people should be able to live and work here.

City Park Lake MUD site PRELIM CONCEPT 1

 

City Park Lake MUD site PRELIM CONCEPT 12

 

City Park Lake MUD site PRELIM CONCEPT 13

 

City Park Lake MUD site PRELIM CONCEPT 14

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9 thoughts on “URBAN TRANSFORMATION

  1. Great project. The only thing I think would be helpful is extending the red line all the way to the Mississippi River. Currently, the LSU bus route goes down only half of brightside drive. This is probably due to an aged bus route when only half of brightside drive was developed. I would like to see the red line become a 2 way rail system that extends to river road and loops through downtown Baton Rouge. This is for 2 reasons. 1st is to help those students like myself who live on the side of brightside with no public transportation, but sandwiched in the middle of all the student housing on brightside is large high income family subdivisions. By looping the rail through downtown it would allow direct access to downtown baton rouge for work commutes. The rail along river road would be extremely helpful during game day when cars line the side of river road from Skip Bertman drive all the way to Brightside. i really like this project. the rail system would come in handy when im drunk and dont wanna drive home!

  2. Great comments, Matt. First, some clarification: all of the lines are two-way trains (two tracks side-by-side) and at the intersection of lines are stops so that people can transfer to the other line.

    Your proposal to continue the red line to the river, and then to downtown along river road would require massive development of the riverfront to be an economical rail line, I think. Game days would certainly be great business for that rail line, but that is only about 8 days per year.

    Actually, it appears that the red line could be a large loop by extending the north end through the lower income areas of North Baton Rouge and bringing it down Plank Road and into the Old Downtown District, then down River Road and Brightside to complete the loop. This additional downtown connection would allow the Downtown Loop (green line) to be eliminated. Downtown navigation would then involve using all of the converging lines which would strategically flow into the Old Downtown District through different areas of the district.

  3. The current (as of Dec 30 2010) rail lines map has the purple line traveling down Burbank Drive because this road is four lanes with a wide median and with massive developmental potential. Perhaps Burbank Drive should be left to vehicular traffic, and the crowded two laned Nicholson Drive should be the route of the purple line? A Nicholson Drive route for the purple line would immediately allow more student housing access to the network.

    It is important to realize that Baton Rouge is “stringy” with development and to include every “string” of development in the rail network would be excessive. This network is intended to concentrate and densify development around it, which means areas not served by the network may suffer as population and businesses move to the densified districts.

  4. Very interesting to see the purple line continue up Acadian instead of turning east onto Perkins like the FUTUREBR suggestion. (Also interesting to see we used the same color for this line: http://theleif.org/me/baton-rouge-plan.php .) I guess it’s a question of where you’re trying to move people between. Most of my attempts were to move people in and out of downtown. Have you done any more work on this or other Baton Rouge development? Heard of the Smart Growth Summit next week?

    • Leif, I determined there needed to be greater connectivity to the mid-city corridor, so the Purple Line was continued up Acadian. Perkins road is then served by the blue line, which is mostly elevated along the existing freight rail line and my MagLev New Orleans connection. This consolidates transit just off of congested Perkins road, but this is certainly an issue for discussion. Also, isn’t it natural to name the line serving LSU either the Purple or Gold Line?! It is nice to see someone else apply the joy of SimCity to the real world. I will study your proposal further, and I hope you continue your interest in Baton Rouge transit.

    • Trel, there are several projects in this “Urban Transformation” page, but I can sum up their status. The rail transit system beyond the Government St. and Nicholson Blvd. lines will be very unfeasible for a long time. There is so much densification of a mixture of development that needs to happen first. So, that project is “on the back-burner”. As for the “Baton Rouge Terminal” transit oriented development at Acadian and Perkins – you may have noticed that the site has recently been squandered with yet another strip-mall, so that is done for now. The high speed maglev train between New Orleans and Baton Rouge would be best if it were left literally open-ended so that it could be expanded to Lafayette, Lake Charles, and to the Texas high speed rail network. This would mean modification to the Baton Rouge terminal that I have currently designed, and relocation to a not-yet-squandered site. The “Cortana Node” is still feasible, I think, but I am currently not diligently working on that project. So to actually answer your question: I am sporadically working on the “CPL-MUD”. You are welcome to talk about whatever project or idea you want. Thanks for commenting!

  5. I believe the Acadian and Perkins area was not and ideal location for anything transit oriented. That direct area is pretty suburban compared to other central locations. Also, I do not think the rail should run between the lanes of I-10. Transit and pedestrian oriented development is difficult when having to deal with such a busy freeway.
    A commuter type rail seems more likely between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, high speed rail should be part of a national network where multiple stops aren’t necessary. The rail roughly following the same tracks that roughly parallel Perkins Rd would allow for stops at the Medical District/Mall, LSU, and downtown.

    • Hey Trel, it is the High-speed rail that should run mainly within the median of I-10. Any other location would mean nasty property and right-of-way issues, whereas the I-10 route is already mostly clear, mostly straight, and already owned by the state (which at first would likely be the operator). In my schemes, the existing railroad line that runs roughly parallel with Perkins road would have both inner city light rail, as well as the high speed rail that would be elevated above the freight line railroad track. This existing railroad line is by far the best penetration point for regional rail. Another (perhaps better) terminal location for the high speed rail would be where the North Boulevard overpass is (now called the Trevor Sims Memorial Bridge). This location allows pedestrian access to Downtown and the Mid-City corridors.

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