Beyond the temporary protective fences and cautionary construction signs where downtown’s North Boulevard meets 3rd Street, Baton Rouge’s very first Town Square quietly waits to be unveiled.
According to Davis Rhorer, Executive Director of the Downtown Development District (DDD), the Town Square will be a place where civic and cultural attractions come together.The area designated for this new attraction is befittingly surrounded by the Old State Capital, the Shaw Center for the Arts, City Hall, the Courthouse, restaurants and coffee and ice cream shops.
The Mysterious Beacon
Passersby these days are stopping to puzzle over the unfinished starring attraction, a futuristic-style media Beacon that already stands tall and proud on the Town Square’s west side against the backdrop of the Old State Capital.
“I think it should definitely display sports and scores for the games,” suggested Don Maddox. He added, “I also think it could have advertisements for local businesses. It could help bring revenue into the city.”
Jill Felps, a mother of three small children, said, “It would be nice to see something for children displayed, like maybe some favorite Disney movie spotlights or sing-a-longs.”
Maddox’s suggestion is already in the works, but the digital signs will convey more than sports scores and advertisements. The DDD’s Gabe Vicknair reports that while the smaller screens at the top of the Beacon will flash transit arrival and departure times, the larger ones will broadcast entire football games. In addition, downtown guests will be able to view video art, interactive trivia, community spotlights, and abstract video segments set to a musical piece entitled the “Energy of Baton Rouge.”
“The possibilities are endless,” Vicknair points out.
Galvez Plaza Attractions
“We can accommodate thousands of people in a wonderful outdoor setting,” explained Rhorer in his description of the Galvez Plaza component of the Town Square. “Now the Live after Five Concert Series will have a newly improved venue.”
Rhorer explains that viewpoint studies have been done to make sure concert goers can walk all around the new permanent event stage and still be able to see the band. He also added that there is a much larger area for dancing.
Galvez Plaza will provide ample seating areas, free Wifi, and a place for playing chess or checkers.
“We are working on booking classes, small events, etc. and are currently giving presentations to local groups/potential users,” Vicknair said.
In addition to Live after Five concerts, a few other events are already lined up for the Spring:
Blues Festival – Saturday, April 14, 2011
Earth Day – Sunday, April 17, 2011
Fest-For-All – April 28 & 29
The Town Lawn is a grassy green area that will support smaller types of programming venues, Rhorer explained. Events such as Sunday in the Park and special lighting at night can be enjoyed here. At such events, various types of films will be projected across the lthe lawn to the ‘Pavilion’ at St. Louis Street.
Rhorer said that in correlation with the state-of-the-art media Beacon, the Town Square will also include a multi-modal transit hub acting as the central transit point into and out of Downtown as well as to LSU.
Local restaurant owners, especially those on North Boulevard and 3rd Street, are looking forward to saying goodbye to construction signs, fences and equipment in order to welcome the new venue. Business, they said, has been slow during the past year, and all are hoping that an increased bounty will ensue after the February grand opening.
“It’s like holding onto stock and hoping it’s gonna get higher so we can cash it in,” said Sam Bassam, co-owner of Sadaf Cafe, a Greek and Lebanese restaurant located directly across from the Town Square.
In response to prospective crowds brought in by festivals and a variety of new events, owner of the adjacent Capital Corner Creamery David Ple said, “I think the completion of this project will make a difference. A festival in the new place can make up for a whole day of slow business.”
Rhorer said the idea for a Town Square was first introduced in the Downtown Visitor’s Amenities plan which called for an improvement of an area. The Riverfront Master Plan refined the initiative and soon thereafter, the city council, led by Mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden, authorized funds to implement it. Construction began not long after the official groundbreaking ceremony was held in January 2011.
Baton Rougians and guests will soon be able to experienceall that the new Town Square has to offer. Fences surrounding the construction should be down in December, but the Town Square Grand Opening will be held some time in February.
The Downtown Development District office and the related website can provide more information about upcoming Town Square events, including a futuristic image of the completed project.