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Why Florida Corridor Improvements Matter to Melrose

What Improvements?

In a nutshell: retrofitting Florida Blvd for improved pedestrian and cyclist access.

This project proposes to improve access for pedestrians and cyclists through intersection and signal improvements, sidewalk connections, and transit stop improvements. Several documents on this site show in detail what's being proposed along the blocks that span N. 22nd St and Airline Hwy. Particular attention has been paid to the crossing safety of intersections near Melrose Place between N. Foster and Cloud Dr.

Why does it matter to Baton Rouge?

The people most likely to directly benefit from the proposed changes on Florida Blvd will be those without cars that need safe access to nearby jobs, schools (like Baton Rouge Community College), libraries, and recreation. This will open up much needed opportunities to this population. But taking in the whole picture, everyone benefits from this: when opportunities grow, crimes tend to decrease.

Why does it matter to Melrose Place?

It's not a stretch to assume most residents in our neighborhood use a car for daily commutes, shopping etc. For those of us who are fortunate to own a car that would otherwise use it for everything, urban planners still make a pitch targeting our demographic that promotes investing in walkable areas. Their reasons include improved health, lower maintenance costs, and reduced automobile reliance. These are all great points, but here's my specific angle:

These improvements matter because they increase our north-south connectivity to the established cultural center of Mid City and beyond.

When a neighborhood benefits healthy lifestyles (walking, jogging, biking) that capitalize on that connectivity, it becomes a more desirable location. While we enjoy the sense of quiet sanctuary our neighborhood offers, know this: being cut off from safe pedestrian access to Mid City destinations is a disadvantage to us that, unfortunately, perpetuates the stigmatization of neighborhoods north of Florida Blvd.

The popular real estate app Redfin introduced Walk Score years ago to add the metric of walkability in helping home buyers know more about an address. The assumption is that a higher Walk Score generally increases property values, and this link has been researched well. Here are a few articles to consider:

I have no illusion that Florida Blvd will become the next Government Street, which is the 2-lane main artery of Mid City. Florida Boulevard's primary function, by contrast, is to move large volumes of east-west vehicular traffic, and any improvements to walkability on Florida will still require a high degree of caution. While Melrose itself is a very pleasant place to walk and ride bikes, it doesn't fit the definition of a "walkable neighborhood" because its residential interior forms an A1-zoned enclave that mostly sits apart from the Florida Blvd "scenery"; it's a small subdivison. As such, it may always be overlooked by future home buyers who prioritize easy pedestrian access to lots of boutique things. C'est la vie. But it need not be a virtual wall blocking north-south pedestrian access for the rest of us.

Also consider the new wave of investment interest along the Florida Corridor. It's too far in the future to guess at anything specific, but is it possible that some of the commercial properties neighboring Melrose Place will wake up and actually be something we would want to walk or bike to? Oh yeah: Rouse's. I'm not holding my breath, but I do reserve the right to be hopeful that others will follow.

In case it bears repeating: healthy, sustainable economic development in the vicinity of our neighborhood is a good thing. Making it possible for people without automobiles to cross Florida Blvd on foot or bike without fearing for their lives is a good thing.

As a cyclist that enjoys riding to LSU, downtown, and River Road (but hates crossing Florida Blvd), admittedly this development is welcomed news. But even if you don’t personally plan on using the sidewalks or crosswalks proposed, its perceived boost to the area will likely be a perk to this real estate market. I hope you will join me in rallying around better pedestrian connectivity along and across Florida Blvd. It will have a net positive effect on the value of our neighborhood and the communities around us.

David West


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