Have you been in downtown Gretna recently? You will have noticed that the south side of Huey P. Long Avenue from 1st to 2nd Street is closed. If all goes as planned, it will reopen by Monday, June 8.

View from City Hall of the Downtown 2020 Project – May 2020. Photo Credit to Michael Wesley

The closure has to do with the keystone program behind Gretna’s Downtown 2020 Plan – Downtown Drainage Phase 1, a storm management and placemaking project that will be among the first in the Southeastern United States to showcase innovative flood mitigation strategies in the downtown area.

Downtown 2020 has been the vision of the future since 2016, a means for the long-term vibrancy of historic Gretna with visual character and amenities available downtown.

“The project study actually started back in 2007 and upon completion had been submitted by the City as a top priority for capital outlay funding. Finally, two years ago the project received the funding necessary and Matthew Martinec, our planning director has been shepherding this project along. Due to be completed in August, we remain hopeful that they can meet that deadline,” Mayor Belinda Constant said.  

View from City Hall of the Downtown 2020 Project –  March 2020. Photo Credit to Michael Wesley

The City’s goal is to combine flood risk reduction with quality of life improvements that draw additional commerce.

“I am looking forward to the first phase of our downtown drainage project nearing completion. Drainage has historically been a major problem in the downtown area, many times causing problems for businesses and forcing courts to cancel dockets. This is just one example of how we need to look beyond traditional drainage methods and explore better ways to live with water. 

“As mayor I am beyond excited and proud to showcase a project of this caliber right in front of City Hall. Under the beautiful landscape that will showcase this project are containers that are capable of holding 35 average size swimming pools worth of water. This will allow us to better handle our storm water in an effort to not overwhelm the drainage system,” the mayor said.  

View from City Hall of the Downtown 2020 Project – December 2019. Photo Credit to Michael Wesley

This new landscape in front of City Hall to be named Memorial Square will allow for quality activity within the walkable and family friendly area. Expect a unique destination within downtown that will continue to serve as the heart of Gretna and the entire Westbank.

Councilman Mike Hinyub of District 2 which encompasses Gretna’s downtown area said, “I’m proud that the city utilized one of the first green infrastructure projects in the area. We creatively thought outside of the box to take advantage of the unfortunate, but necessary closures due to Covid-19. We modified the schedule so that the project could proceed with minimal disruption to public buildings and businesses.”

Over the course of the project there have been some traffic disruptions that have been addressed with businesses and residents since the start of construction. Parking closures affected the downtown area somewhat, but all businesses remained open during normal hours of operation. The City temporarily opened several of the angled parking areas to minimize disruption to downtown businesses as much as possible.

Aerial view from the river toward City Hall before Downtown 2020 – Drainage Phase 1 began. Photo Credit to Michael Wesley                   

The City assures that the current “bumps” on Huey P. Long Avenue will be resolved prior to completion with a new asphalt overlay around the plaza.  Access to City Hall has changed throughout the project, although the primary entrance will continue to remain in use until completion.

All sub surface retention areas have been installed. Certain components of the project are nearing completion, like the seat walls, bio retention cells, pedestrian and vehicular pavers, lighting system and planting areas, with trees due to be planted this week.

The project is currently approximately 80% complete with an expected completion date by August 2020. The high river stage in March slowed progress in certain areas of the project, but construction crews are back to operating at full speed.  

“Importantly, this project will be complete on time and is almost entirely paid for by leveraging State and Federal dollars, not from City tax revenues,” Councilman Hinyub said.   

It’s satisfying to know that improvements and growth are the name of the game by the administration of the City of Gretna, always acknowledging needs and achieving goals for its people.

Looking forward to enjoying the benefits of Memorial Square.


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