I’m going to describe a street in Lafayette. See if you can figure out where it is.
It’s a little over a half mile long. It has two lanes for cars and ample room to stroll along through a small park with trees to an outdoor café or the occasional food truck. You might pause to watch the puppies play in the dog park. There is an adjacent bicycle path. You can hear live music wafting from a small stage and perchance encounter an outdoor yoga class and activities for kids, like face painting or fun jumps.
What comes to mind? Downtown Lafayette? The newly redesigned stretch of St. Mary through the UL Campus? The Town Center of River Ranch? The answer is Bertrand Drive, which will be transformed May 31 into a pedestrian friendly street with all those amenities and more. This one-day pop-up event will be produced as part of LCG’s comprehensive planning process to show what is possible for the future of Lafayette’s streetscapes. It’s also a great way to illustrate how easily portions of our city can be adapted to accommodate the changing lifestyle choices of the 21st century.
Better Block Bertrand is part of a national initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life across America by redeveloping towns and cities one block at a time. The movement’s founder is Dallas native Jason Roberts, who is coming to Lafayette courtesy of The 705 to discuss this transformational concept, known as “tactical urbanism.” His presentation will be at The Lafayette Science Museum at 5:30 p.m. May 20 and is free, but seating is limited; reserve early via Eventbrite. You can also catch Roberts’ TED Talk on YouTube.
The two Better Block events lead up to final adoption of the LCG comprehensive plan, slated for a special planning commission meeting June 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Clifton Chenier Center. Once approved, the plan will be brought before the LCG council in early July for a resolution of support, to be followed by a unified development code early next year. Staff is also working on a complete streets policy and a new approach to improvements along the I-49 corridor while applying for a $500,000 federal grant to implement them. Park usage is being inventoried to lay groundwork for a master plan for parks. LCG also just received one of three grants awarded nationally from the Center for Community Progress to take the next steps on adjudicated properties in the city.
In short, there is at last a plethora of planning in our parish, and there are few things more important for us as we position Lafayette for growth in the new century. Flo Meadows, a community leader on this issue, sums it up: “Louisiana is in a period of multi-billion-dollar investment and growth, an amount which fosters competitiveness like no other time in our history. Lafayette Parish has lacked a culture of planning, but our growth stress fractures are somewhat significant at this point. Without adequate planning and implementation, we head into decline.”
The formula for success is simple: First you plan the work, then you work the plan. The comp plan is a solid investment in Lafayette’s future, designed using today’s best practices and already embraced by our emerging community leaders. This is a unique opportunity for us all. Lâche pas la patate.