Improving Quality of Place through Design and Planning
What is Quality of Place and what is its importance in downtown development?
One simple way of understanding Quality of Place is by examining the built or natural environment and the social/cultural aspects of a town, area, or even region. Not only can Quality of Place be recognized through the location's design and architectural character, but also through practical ideas such as walk-ability, street-life, community events, and public spaces. Quality of Place is a location's unique and recognizable character that influences people's sense of health, comfort, and happiness.
Quality of Place can be improved (or worsened) through elements of urban design, often requiring a great deal of planning to ensure development is done in a way that will improve a location's Quality of Place and lead to a more attractive environment for businesses and residents.
Great public spaces – or the spaces where communities come together - are also very important in improving Quality of Place. Quality public spaces, particularly greenspaces or parks make life in modern cities livable, offering a connection to nature and opportunities for human interaction through community events and recreation.
Public art such as colorful murals and sculpture can enhance the character of a downtown and maintain an atmosphere of culture and creativity. Public art can be iconic and memorable, offering backdrops for photo ops or opportunities for reflection. People begin to associate a place with its public art and the community that values it.
Even streets can be a powerful aspect of Quality of Place through urban design. Streets connect the urban realm and are considered unique spaces themselves. Transportation systems that ease travel by car, bike, foot or public transportation can enhance a cities character and livability.
Creating Quality of Place in Downtown Baton Rouge
In working toward creating a strong Quality of Place in Downtown Baton Rouge, the DDD puts major emphasis on sustaining momentum. Investors as well as the public are frequently reminded that positive change is taking place through the DDD’s marketing outlets including social media, email list communication, press releases, and other available marketing outlets. This increases and sustains awareness of the progress downtown, engaging visitors and residents in the progress. As the momentum increases, people are moving forward together with excitement, actively engaged in initiatives such as alternative transportation and urban living.
The Downtown Baton Rouge Arts & Entertainment District was formed in 2008 to provide a means for growth and development through arts and entertainment related activities. The goal was to create a district that has a unique sense of place through a balance of arts and entertainment and a positive reflection of Baton Rouge. Third Street, located in the heart of the Arts and Entertainment District, offers many restaurants, bars, and music venues. It provides visitors and residents a unique experience of memorable music and culture, and contributes greatly to the Quality of Place in Downtown Baton Rouge.
Reclaiming Cultural Assets through Historic Preservation
Early planning initiatives recommended reclaiming existing cultural assets in the downtown area. Often identified as a major contributor to Quality of Place, historic buildings and monuments have a great effect on the architectural significance of a place. Many of downtown’s oldest and most valued cultural treasures such as the Old State Capitol, Old Governor’s Mansion, and Historic Heidelberg Hotel were mostly abandoned or in a state of disrepair. Today these buildings stand as icons in the city skyline, giving downtown a unique character and sense of place.
Another important layer to this historic preservation evolution was emphasis on the redevelopment of downtown’s historic neighborhoods – Spanish Town and Beauregard Town. Restoration Renaissance was a branded program spearheaded by the DDD to encourage investment in these areas. Renovation projects were toured by parading citizens during planned events that showcased the development potential of these neighborhoods. Historic preservation tax incentives were marketed to potential investors, and it did not take long for these neighborhoods to experience a drastic turnaround. Today, property values are stable and each neighborhood has its own special character that draws visitors, new residents and investment; contributing to the Quality of Place found in these neighborhoods and downtown.
When it comes to Baton Rouge, downtown is the best opportunity to live the urban lifestyle. Young professionals and the creative class are attracted to a lifestyle where they have walk-able access to their jobs, transportation, entertainment, recreation, and shopping. The urban lifestyle offers a faster pace environment where there is easy access to essential services, but also a social vibe that offers a progressive blend of music and art.
Recreation and Quality Public Spaces
Another strong contributor to a strong Quality of Place is the level of amenities that promote an active lifestyle. Parks, greenways, and other recreation options such as boating and indoor health facilities encourage 24 hour activity and good health. The simple presence of people running, biking, or enjoying passive or event related recreation can contribute to the location’s character and sense of place. The Downtown Development District has spent the last few years focused on creating and improving recreational options in Downtown Baton Rouge through the Central Green initiative, a strategy to strengthen the Quality of Place and increase downtown’s activity.
The Central Green initiative focuses on three major greening projects, which are now underway or complete including: North Boulevard Town Square, Galvez Stage and Crest Sculpture, City Hall, Riverfront Plaza, and Repentance Park.
In addition to recent improvements to the Mississippi Riverfront, including the rehabilitation of Riverfront Plaza and the City Dock, the DDD continues working on various projects that seek to connect the Central Business District, Central Green, and riverfront to surrounding neighborhoods, parks, and attractions. The Downtown Greenway will soon complete the connection to Mid City and the Garden District, as we continue initiatives that will strengthen links between downtown, North Baton Rouge, and our universities.
Quality of Place comes from the physical, social, and economic environment offered by a place and cannot be created overnight. Ongoing implementation of our strategic master plan is creating a unique blend of elements that influencing the public perception of downtown and its effectiveness in business and tourism attraction.
Please contact us if you are interested in living, working or investing in Downtown Baton Rouge.