LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A pop-up park, themed artwork on buildings, a beer garden, and bike paths were just some of the features that the Better Block initiative featured at Nellie Lutcher Memorial Parkway this Saturday.
“The Nellie Lutcher Cultural District, is more than just a destination on a map," said Project Manager and consultant, John O’Donnell. “It can be this thriving vibrant neighborhood, with some very simple changes, with some very easy things, to do, to make that happen.”
The neighborhood was designed based on the history of jazz legend Nellie Lutcher herself. After months planning
the Better Block initiative wanted to prove that with some changes, the neighborhood could thrive.
“There’s so much rich history here to highlight so we really wanted to celebrate arts and culture, and hopefully tie that in,” said Sara Judson, CEO of the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana.
This is the second neighborhood that the Better Block initiative has transformed. The first one, on Lakeshore Drive, was transportation-focused and is the reason why there are bike lanes there today.
“The other one was really focused on bike paths and getting people out and comfortable with being bike paths,” Judson said. "And this one has bike paths, green space, a park, and more focused in addition on economic development.”
But economic development in a historical neighborhood comes with its reservations.
“The last thing we want to do is copy-paste Nelson Rd onto Enterprise Boulevard," O’Donnell said. "So what we’re really trying to do is incentivize development from within and inspire entrepreneurs from within this area to build out this neighborhood the way they want to see.”
And this economic development is something neighbors, like property owner Monica Fontenot, are excited to see.
“This area, this particular block is a key-hole to Lake Charles,” Fontenot said. "It brings you straight off the interstate down into the city. And so when people take the Enterprise exit, this could be one of the first things they see of this city, and what this represents.”
Those at the event filled out a survey giving feedback on the kinds of businesses and amenities they’d like to see. They’re hoping that with this initiative, it won’t take very long for economic development to happen. For more information on the Better Block initiative at the Nellie Lutcher neighborhood, click here.