Renderings from the Paul Maillard Road Corridor Revitalization Plan. Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, LA.
In St. Charles Parish, LA, local officials are betting that two ambitious new projects will spur economic development and noticeably improve connectivity—to a level seldom found in the suburbs.
St. Charles Parish, located 20 miles west of New Orleans, LA on the Mississippi River, boasts a population of 54,000 spread out among several communities. The parish has no concentrated population center, which allows for funding to be spread evenly but creates a unique landscape for smart growth. Buddy Boe, Chief Administrative Officer for the Parish and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working with residents to revitalize existing roads and create central corridors designed to bring the community together and diversify the local economy—currently reliant on industrial and maritime sectors—ensuring a prosperous future for the area.
Like many main thoroughfares in St. Charles Parish, Paul Maillard Road was once a thriving commercial corridor. Despite being home to a local hospital and connecting two state highways, the corridor has suffered from several decades of sustained disinvestment and population loss. The street was identified in St. Charles Parish’s Comprehensive Plan as an area ripe for investment and growth. Now, thanks to a 2011 Sustainable Cities Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), that vision for revitalization is coming to fruition. Just this week, the Paul Maillard Corridor Revitalization Plan was released to the public.
Plans for the corridor involve the development of three distinct areas identified by the community through a public planning process. These include a mixed-use main street, a proposed new town center centered around St. Charles Parish Hospital, and a rural residential area. The plan will also include new sidewalks, crosswalks, bus stops, shade trees, a linear park, and a commercial area with a pavilion for a farmers market.
The project is intended to spur other corridor revitalization efforts, continued investment in the Parish, and the emergence of a more diverse economy. “We are already seeing other HUD grants look at the corridor, as well as housing redevelopment funding attached to the corridor through other Parish departments,” says Boe. “It is truly becoming the example for the rest of the parish.”
In addition to the Paul Maillard Road Corridor Revitalization Plan, St. Charles Parish has identified a need to connect existing bike and pedestrian corridors to each other. “Along the river, there are tens of miles of multi-use paths—as well as strong bike paths and sidewalk networks in the communities—but few of them are connected,” says Boe. Looking at the parish as a whole, the new bike and pedestrian connectivity plan will fill in gaps to create one interconnected network that reaches beyond the revitalized corridor and provides residents with a continuous transportation alternative throughout the spread-out, suburban area. Trips to local stores and community facilities that were previously inaccessible by bike will now be available. According to Boe, “this as a vital step to connecting the whole community.”
These two projects are just the beginning for St. Charles Parish. The Comprehensive Plan and Recreation Plan that spurred the Paul Maillard Corridor revitalization project—along with the new bike plan—will improve quality of life for parish residents, ensure that new growth adds amenities for residents, and bolster the look, feel, and economy of the parish for generations to come.