03-10-23 | Feature

Mixed-use on the Mississippi

A Noteworthy Mixed-use Center Is Rising
by Mike Dahl, LASN

A large site incorporating separate structures for retail, commercial, residential, and governmental endeavors is under development in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, bordering the Mississippi River. The first phase is complete and includes the commercial/retail building on the right and the adjacent residential building. In between is a park that was designed by Reich Associates. In this rendering, Brickyard Lane showcases a distinctive paver pattern that features the Unilock tones of 'graphite' for the field, 'black granite' for the crosswalk, and 'opal' for the crosswalk's perimeter and the two courses down the middle.
The walls of the solid granite fountain and its route were designed to emulate the twists and turns of the Mississippi River. Even its structural members are made of granite instead of the typical concrete or steel beam. It is divided into two sections, this one in the foreground and the second one in the background (to the left of the truck). The pavers between the fountains are the same granite as the fountain. All the trees onsite are native. They include Black Gum, Drummond Red Maple, and Fruitless Sweetgum. The ornamental grasses here are Fakahatchee. Streetlamps are the standard model specified by the city. On the other light pole are RGB spotlights that are used to highlight the fountain.
These benches are custom fabricated from cypress wood that was milled specifically for this project. Their bases are cast-in-place concrete. A steel saddle to hold the wood planks was placed into each concrete base as it was cast. Channel lights were routed into the wood underneath the benches' seats. Other lighting included square well lights and wood and aluminum bollards.
The residential sections of the site are designed to help support the retail and commercial entities. The plaza outside of these apartment lofts is made up of 4" x 4" x 16" concrete planks from Unilock. The tree planters at the bottom right of the photo are solid granite as are the curbing around the planters beneath the wood benches. Gray architectural precast stone was used for the steps. In the middle of the photo is a 'Twig' bench made from glass fiber reinforced concrete. The zoysia grass is natural fiber-reinforced to give it structural rigidity to withstand large-scale events. Natural fiber reinforcing utilizes natural fiber composites which are derived from renewable and carbon dioxide neutral resources such as wood or plants. The grass is installed on top of a large sand base for more effective drainage.
This planter/bench outside the building called The Estuary is built from floating timber that was pulled from the river and milled on site. Plantings in this area, such as the button bush here, represent the four different ecological zones from Baton Rouge to Louisiana's Gulf Coast. The planter in the background is cast-in-place concrete.
The native plants outside The Estuary are allowed to go through their natural lifecycle as wild plants, which is why they don't look as manicured as is typical in high-end developments.
Wayfinding signs are just beginning to be fabricated and installed but they will eventually incorporate all the designs seen here.

Along the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a noteworthy mixed-use center is rising, with its starting point at what was once an abandoned dock. The site was purchased by Commercial Properties Realty Trust, a branch of a local philanthropic foundation that invests in well-intentioned developments in the community.

The plans call for centers of retail, commercial, government, and residential activity to coexist in environmentally-sustainable surroundings - collectively known as The Water Campus.

The Principals
Reich Associates, the oldest landscape architecture firm in Louisiana, was hired to design the project's landscape and streetscape as part of a larger team led by the urban planning firms of Dover, Kohl, & Partners, Urban Design Associates and Stantec, and the architectural firms of Coleman Partners Architects LLC, Perkins + Will Architects, and Antunovich Associates.

The first phase of development is complete and includes 1200 Brickyard Lane, a commercial/retail building, flanked by 200 Water Street, a residential complex. Between the two is a green area that offers a respite to office tenants, residents, and visitors.

A Place to Relax
Main Square Park, nestled in between CPRA, the LSU River Model Complex, 200 Water Street Residences and the 1200 Brickyard building is one of what will be a series of public gathering places at The Water Campus to foster flexible open space. In this way, it also acts as a front door to the 200 Water Street loft apartments and looks across to the 1200 Brickyard Lane office building.

With the wide variety of entities adjacent to the park, the design needed to be flexible and allow for a variety of programming activities. This includes a tree bosque with caf?(C) style tables and chairs that will allow for shaded meeting places or a quiet space to pull up a chair.

The Signature Feature
A sparkling ribbon of water runs almost the length of the park thanks to a custom-milled, granite fountain that separates the park from the pedestrian sidewalk adjacent to Brickyard Lane.

The fountain's design is inspired by the Mississippi River and its many twists, turns, and undulations that the river organically created throughout time while forming much of Louisiana.


According to Grant Murphy, the project manager for the landscape architecture portion of the project, "In the same way that the Mississippi River provides life to the many cities that line its banks on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, the Main Square Park fountain will also provide vibrance and life to the Water Campus."

The interactive fountain encompasses two different sections. Both are made up of rippling water sections, step downs, and a smooth, eloquent sheet of water that glistens in the sun as users walk across, which they can at almost all points.

The site had four feet of grade change and "...because of how exact the fountain was, the coordination effort was intensive to make sure the grade aligned with the fountain," Murphy states.

He traveled to Germany to the fountain's fabricator Kusser Graniteworks to study the way different water textures can be formed.

"So, there are smooth portions, there are chiseled portions and flamed portions," says Murphy. "All of them create a pattern that we were specifically looking for. We did a mockup and worked very closely with the manufacturer on the design."

Ultimately the fountain had to come in by boat in shipping containers. Each of the two sections encompassed five modules that were then seamlessly connected onsite.

The Greenery
Native plantings were an emphasis of this project. Trees include Black Gum, Drummond Red Maple, Dahoon Holly, Fruitless Sweetgum, and Shumard Oak.

Ornamental grasses such as Fakahatchee, Little Bluestem, Dwarf Maiden, and White Muhly are also part of the landscaping.

A lush central lawn of soft grass creates a place for visitors to rest and provides an area for hosting special events. The turf is a zoysia variety that was fiber-reinforced and built on a large sand base for exceptional drainage. This better facilitates large-scale events taking place on top of it.

In another area of the site, known as The Estuary, different planters feature different native plants from the four different ecological zones in between Baton Rouge and Louisiana's Gulf Coast. A private grower specializing in native vegetation for restoring wetlands donated the plants.

Completing the Picture
In addition to the fountain and the native landscape, Main Square Park features solid, granite pavers between the two sections of the fountain, concrete paver plazas, architectural cast stone steps, cypress wood benches, and glass fiber reinforced concrete benches.

Lighting includes streetlamps, bollards, up lights for the trees, channel lighting under the wood benches, and the steps, and RGB decorative lighting for the fountain.

Main Square Park at the Water Campus is now a space for passive and active recreation within a world-class collaborative research campus that is devoted to the study of coastal restoration and sustainability.

The development of the Water Campus continues. And Reich Associates stands ready to contribute more to the project.

"As they build out the rest of the campus, I'm sure we will be part of that," Murphy reckons.

Team List
Owner: Commercial Properties Realty Trust
Urban Planners: Dover, Kohl, & Partners, Urban Design Associates, Stantec
Architects: Coleman Partners Architects LLC, Perkins + Will Architects, Antunovich Associates
Landscape Architect: Reich Landscape Architecture
General Contractor: Lemoine
Fountain Fabrication: Kusser Graniteworks


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