Urban Design Possibilities and Barriers for Mid-size American City

Lafayette, Louisiana, a mid-size city with a population of 220,000, is located in southern Louisiana.

This city has thrived from the latter part of the 20th century due to the success of the oil industry, the university, and regional urbanism growth. Its success and suburbanization is typical of most American cities of this size with a fragmented downtown core, and proliferation of suburban sprawl.

The city has struggled to regenerate its downtown core and traditional neighborhoods in the past decade due to multiple barriers including inadequate zoning, dysfunctional planning, private property rights, lobbying for suburban developer agenda, and an anemic public transportation system.

The Community Design Workshop (CDW), a graduate studio from the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, has been working with the city for the past 16 years to provide urban strategies and economic tactics for redevelopment of the city’s urban core. Two projects have helped to identify some of the barriers and possibilities for redevelopment.

The first project, Freetown, a neighborhood that’s name comes from the area where the free African Americans lived and worked, now houses students and faculty, as well as commercial.

The Oil Center, adjacent to the University, was developed for the newly emerging oil industry and its workers in the late 50s and 60s. The end goal for both projects was to renovate the single story neighborhoods into a thriving multi- level, mixed-use development. The economic down turn, low tax base, and lack of leadership from public officials has created an environment that has retarded redevelopment of the city’s downtown and traditional neighborhoods.

A clear understanding of these factors, linked with viable urban tactics to combat these barriers at a policy level as well as formal and economic strategies, is the foundation of these projects and the CDW.

Prof Thomas Sammons, Professor of Architecture, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA will present at the: 5th International Urban Design Conference – The Hilton on the Park, Melbourne, Australia from the 10th to the 12th of September – 2012

Email: secretariat@urbandesignaustralia.com.au | URL: www.urbandesignaustralia.com.au

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