Livability Solutions

Rediscovering Public Engagement Through Placemaking: Gretna, LA

September 2015

   Host: 

City of Gretna

Tool(s): 

Place Audit

Source: 

Challenge

Gretna is a city of approximately 18 thousand residents on the west bank of the Mississippi, just across the river from uptown New Orleans. City leadership has embraced sustainable, walkable development and opportunities for it abound in Gretna: the city was developed on a street grid and there are many walkable destinations within its 4-square mile area. Local expertise on sustainable development is limited however, and that is preventing the City from using an influx of federal aid to realize its aspirations. The City sought technical assistance from Livability Solutions on complete streets design guidance and transforming its historic downtown into a destination using Placemaking.

The City of Gretna and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance provider (Project for Public Spaces) defined the following objectives for technical assistance:

  1. Working with stakeholders and the public to identify strategies to make Gretna, particularly its downtown, more welcoming for walking and bicycling.
  2. Training City staff and the public to evaluate streets and generate ideas to make them safer, more welcoming, and more vibrant.
  3. Identify strategies for "completing" 1-2 of the city's streets using PPS' Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper techniques.
  4. Working with City staff to identify ways for planned development, green infrastructure and proposed transportation projects to further its multi-modal goals.

Recommendations from the workshop will inform the updating of the City's comprehensive plan and development code.

Process

On the first day of on-site technical assistance, Project for Public Spaces held a daylong training attended by City staff and local stakeholders. Participants included: City Council members; staff from Public Works and Planning and Zoning departments; a local judge; two pastors; and staff of local non-profit organizations. The training introduced the principles of Placemaking and explored best practices for creating welcoming public spaces and designing complete streets. Participants engaged in asset and opportunity mapping for Gretna, and developed a typology for the city's streets. The purpose of the typology is to let adjacent land uses and building types (both existing and desired) determine the design of the street.

That evening, at a well-attended public workshop, PPS gathered input on ways to improve four downtown public spaces. Participants each visited one of the locations and in concert with other attendees used the four measure of place (Uses and Activities, Comfort and Image, Sociability, Access and Linkages) to evaluate the location. Following the field work participants offered their ideas on short and long term improvements.

On the second day of on-site technical assistance, PPS met with City staff to discuss the results from the public workshop. The purpose of the meeting was to identify common threads in the place audits and the recommendations for improvements. The visit concluded with both parties identifying specific short and long term actions to make downtown Gretna a vibrant and walkable place.

Outcomes

The strong attendance for the September 23 public meeting is considered by the City to be a successful outcome of the technical assistance. A significant amount of time had elapsed since the City last sought public input in a such a forum.

The City worked with Tulane University to create concept plans for a redesign of a downtown plaza.

The City has secured funding for crosswalk improvements and is banking funds for a downtown wayfinding project.

Gretna Downtown 2020 Plan was completed with the help of Tulane University. The Plan incorporates many of the findings of the technical memorandum.

The City expects to finalize funding for a downtown green infrastructure project that will incorporate intersection and public space updates that were recommended in the technical memorandum. Construction is tentatively set for late 2017.