Revitalization is everywhere throughout New Orleans and its outlying suburbs. With so many historical places, this area is a unique and quaint place to live. One area that needs currently needs improvement is Gretna’s downtown district. Urban planners from Tulane University want to create a plan for Gretna’s development and beautification efforts in an area located between the West Bank Expressway and the Mississippi River.
The project will take around five to ten years to complete and will cost Gretna approximately $30,000. Many small cities such as Mandeville, Slidell and Kenner’s Rivertown District have also worked with the Tulane’s urban design center. This keeps design costs down because the University provides a more reasonable rate in exchange for hands-on experience for Tulane students. The students have also been working on another project, Project for Public Spaces, and will use ideas from that project on the current Gretna project.
“I think at the end of the day we’re going to get a bigger bang for our buck with regards to the two programs working in tandem,” Mayor Belinda Constant said. Gretna will also be able to cut cost by using the project to apply to the Louisiana Main Street program that will offer Gretna tax credits and financing opportunities for their revitalization efforts.
The first step in the process is to get motorist that are driving on the West Bank Expressway to stop and explore downtown Gretna. “Some of what we’ve talked about is identifying gateways, with signage and other means, to help draw people to downtown and make them aware of what’s down there,” said Nick Jenisch, project manager for the Tulane Regional Urban Design Center. A Gretna Downtown 2020 logo has been created for signage throughout the area.
Residents have been involved with the planning and Tulane has been receptive to their concerns and suggestions. They want the use of the public outdoor spaces such as the riverfront and the square in front of City Hall. Mayor Belinda Constant says the town wants to attract young professionals through the use of walkable and bikeable routes around town and more small retail space.
Constant stated that, “We are a very small city, so the work that we can do is revitalization work,” she said. “We’re pretty much landlocked, and there aren’t any big lots of property that we can develop to broaden our tax base. … We’re just trying to position the city in the best light possible so people want to live, work and do business here.” Overall residents are excited about the re-gentrification of the small city they call home.