Winner of $30,000 Jefferson Parish drainage canal design competition named

There won’t be any problem finding $30,000 to pay the Florida consortium that designed a playground, volunteer plaza and botanical walk as part of the winning contest entry to beautify the West Esplanade Avenue drainage canal in Metairie.

The winning design in the Drainage Canal Design Competition features plenty of public interaction, including a playground, a volunteer plaza and a botanical walk.

The Jefferson Business Council will provide the prize money and foot the bill for $5,000 each to the second-, third- and fourth-place teams, said Patricia Besselman, a Metairie financial planner who chaired the competition.

The question that involves much deeper pockets is whether there is money available for the designs to go from floppy disks and board room easels to canals throughout Jefferson Parish. For example, the winning design to beautify a 2-1/2 mile section of West Esplanade is estimated to cost $10.3 million. Parish President John Young, present at Monday’s announcement of the contest winners, said it’s up to the parish’s elected officials, working with the civic and business community, to find a way.

Drainage canals that attract neighbors, instead of embarrassing them, “are not just about beautification, but economic development as well,” he said. If you visit an area and get lost in its charm and beauty, you are more likely to stay longer or return more quickly, Young said.

David Andignac, a member of the Jefferson Economic and Development Commission, said each drainage canal in the parish should help to motivate parish officials in the money search.

Drainage canals are “tremendously effective, very pragmatic and pretty ugly,” he said of Jefferson’s system of 340 miles of criss-crossing drainage canals and ditches.

Public Works Director Kazem Alikhani said he was impressed with the designs offered by the finalists, though the crucial consideration is that the drainage function of the canals is not affected.

“The primary goal is conveyance of rainwater,” Alikhani said. “But these designs look good. I think it’s a good beginning.”

The instructions to all the companies in the contest emphasized that the flow of the canal could not be affected. Design firms were also instructed to be practical and come up with ideas that weren’t so elaborate and expensive that there was no realistic chance of implementing them.

The winning entry came from a partnership of Cadence, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, design company; PoulosBrown Civil Engineers of Orlando, Florida; and Studio Snyder, a Washington-area marketing firm.

“We took an approach that was environmentally sound and economically feasible,” said Gage Couch of Cadence.

The winning entry includes different landscaping elements, as well as areas of the canals that invite the public to visit, socialize and enjoy the beauty.

“Louisiana has a unique culture,” said Cadence co-founder Rebecca Bradley, a Louisiana native. “We do like to socialize and have a good time.”

The seven finalists were scrutinized by a panel of 12 judges ranging from landscape architects and engineers to business and finance experts. The other winners were: Brown + Danos Laddesign, partnered with Metalsmith and Duplantis Design Group, second place; Reich Associates, third place; and the team of Waggonner & Ball, Bosch Slabbers Landscape and Nelson Engineers.

Steve Shurtz, one of the 12 judges and a member of the Louisiana chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, said all the designs were impressive. “There was no standout and nothing dragging the caboose either,” he said.

The Cadence consortium won, Shurtz said, because its plan looked good and called on neighbors to support and help to maintain the improvements.

“Above all else, it was a rational and buildable plan that is both practical and very attractive,” Shurtz said. “I think what put them over the top is that they really connected the plan to the community with a volunteerism component.”

The company’s plan included several potential financing sources to come up with the $10.3 million project cost, Bradley said.

Contest judge Lynn Dupont, a member of the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission, said she also is aware of potential financing sources available for urban beautification. For example, Dupont said the state Department of Transportation and Development’s transportation enhancement program could become a major source of financing for at least some of the canal improvements.

“At that point, all you’re talking about is coming up with the matching funds, instead of the whole amount,” Dupont said.

The competition was sponsored by the East Jefferson Business AssociationJefferson Community FoundationRegional Planning CommissionJEDCO and the state chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Article written by Bob Ross at The Times-Picayune. Link to original article.