Portion of long awaited Crescent Park opens

February 25 2014 | Latest News
BY ANDREW VANACORE theadvocate.com

A portion of the long-awaited — and long-delayed — Crescent Park, a riverfront park running alongside the Bywater neighborhood, opened Monday, offering residents and visitors another vantage on the Mississippi River with walking and cycling paths, gardens, picnic areas and a dog run.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration made the unexpected announcement at an afternoon press conference after refusing for weeks to answer questions about why the park hadn’t opened.

City Council President Jackie Clarkson said last month that Landrieu’s administration told her the delay had something to do with possible soil contamination, but the city would say only that it was waiting for the contractor to finish the project.

Mary Ann Hammett, a member of the Bywater Neighborhood Association, said she raced out of the bath to make the press conference. “My legs are still trembling,” she said. “But it’s open, and we’re delighted.”

The Marigny or upriver end of the 1.4-mile-long, $30 million park is still closed. The city said it will begin work this spring on a pedestrian bridge connecting Elysian Fields Avenue to a former industrial wharf space, known as the Mandeville Shed, that’s been converted to an open-air “community and event space” with restroom facilities. It’s scheduled to be completed late this year.

At the edge of the shed is the Mandeville Ellipse, a raised grass lawn. The Mandeville Shed and Ellipse will remain closed to the public until the Mandeville Crossing pedestrian bridge is completed.

The Bywater portion that opened Monday includes a promenade for both pedestrians and bicyclists; the Piety Wharf, offering “sweeping views” of the river and skyline; and a “kickabout” section with a picnic area and a fenced-off space for dogs (which must be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and wearing ID tags).

The 20-acre park, running from Elysian Fields to Mazant Street, features the adaptive reuse of two former industrial wharves. The walking paths within the gardens are constructed with permeable asphalt paving, an environmentally friendly material that allows for rainwater penetration, thus decreasing the amount of stormwater runoff.

“Crescent Park will further anchor redevelopment and revitalization and serve as an important gathering place for residents and visitors alike,” Landrieu said. “The Mississippi River is a cherished resource, and this park will offer the public even more access to its beauty.”

Crescent Park was first envisioned in 2006 by the New Orleans Building Corp. as part of an effort to open up portions of the Mississippi riverfront that were no longer needed for maritime commerce. Despite their proximity to the river, the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods have long been cut off from riverfront access due to maritime activities, active railroad lines and the floodwall.

In 2008, the city awarded $30 million to the NOBC for the project. Construction began in late 2010. The city coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of New Orleans, New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, and Sewerage & Water Board throughout construction.

The park was designed through a collaborative effort led by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and a team of architects including George Hargreaves and Michael Maltzan. It was constructed by Landis Construction of New Orleans and managed by the Tobler Co. on behalf of the city.

“I especially want to give a big shout out to the leaders of the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods for their tireless dedication. Without them, this would not have been possible,” Clarkson said.

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, “This is a great day for the residents of District C and the city of New Orleans. Crescent Park provides more public access to our riverfront and needed recreation space for our children and families. I applaud the administration and the resident-led task force who came together to make sure the design of this park complements the surrounding communities and is an asset to our neighborhoods.”

The Piety Wharf section of Crescent Park is connected to Chartres Street by the Piety Street Arch, a pedestrian footbridge that crosses over railroad lines and the floodwall. A public parking lot is located along Chartres at the foot of Piety Street.

Upon completion of the Mandeville Crossing, Crescent Park will have three entrances: the Mandeville Crossing, the Piety Street Arch and the Mazant Street Ramp.

The park will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 7 p.m. during daylight saving time.

No skateboards, motorized vehicles, Segways, motorcycles, scooters, glass containers or bottles, littering, heavy equipment or vehicles are permitted in the park. Overnight activity, cooking and swimming are prohibited.