Mandeville Town Center

Proposed Town Center.
Location: Mandeville, Louisiana, USA
Project Categories: UrbanismCodes
Year Started: 2011
Size: 145 acres

Located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Mandeville was unique in having a firm shoreline and extraordinarily fresh air. For a century, approached only by water, Mandeville was a place of sociability, amusement, and rest. In 1956 the expansion of the new I-90 causeway across Lake Pontchartrain bypassed the original Mandeville grid, disrupting the town center. This plan has been conceived to retain Mandeville’s original virtues and mitigate some of the problems caused by the highway strip development.

Today, Mandeville consists of two areas of markedly different character: the original grid south of I-90 and the post-war automobile-oriented suburbs to the north. Three prior plans for Mandeville have recommended that a special plan be prepared of the inchoate town center along the old rail line, now a bike trail. The historical relocations of Mandeville’s town center from lakeshore to highway have created a dispersed commercial supporting pattern, which is not mutually reinforcing. As a result some of the retail is underperforming and all of it could be improved.

During the public process there emerged four specific projects and several general ones. The implementation of the Town Center was the primary specific project assignment. This was associated with its identity on I-190, where the traffic is concentrated, which leads to a specific project to create a Gateway. The Waterfront was brought up as a place that could increase its potential, especially for younger people. The Catholic Church, being in full expansion mode, was causing a great disruption. It became a fourth specific plan.

Special Project 1: Gateway

While the majority of vehicular traffic approaches Mandeville from Highway 190, drivers give little notice to either the Town Center or to the businesses and attractions within the Historic District. The Gateway Special Project proposes gateways in the form of traffic circles at the intersections of I-190 with both Lafitte and Girod streets. These alert drivers to the town center while providing more efficient flow in the intersections.

Lots to the north of I-190 should revert from the County to the City for the control of building design. An architectural gateway will be created through building disposition, architectural style, sidewalks and landscaping. The gas stations are converted to 'gas backwards' orientation, allowing the more attractive retail element to front on Highway 190, while turning the gas pumps and service to the rear.

Special Project 2: Town Center

Originally serving the old rail line that is today the Tammany Trace bike route, the trail head area has been designated the Old Mandeville Town Center. As a result of prior planning efforts, the municipality has invested in civic facilities and private developers have built several mixed-use buildings. Civic programs including: a farmer’s market, outdoor concert series, and interpretive cultural center draw visitors.

The trailway is currently not sufficient to anchor or activate a robust town center. This will require a number of additional “anchors.” The Town Center will combine recreational, cultural, civic and retail functions in a walkable area that provides both an appealing place to live and an attractive destination.

Critical properties, including the Acadian Millworks and Aquarius Pools, must be placed under control of the City or a master developer. The Town Center plan identifies a children’s playground, community gardens, expanded farmer's market, expanded amphitheater, library, town hall, and YMCA, all with outdoor plazas and squares, and an edge of commercial, retail, live/work and residential buildings. This comprehensive plan will energize the visitation of this area, and in turn support the expanded businesses.

Additional opportunities are made available for office, commercial, retail and residential units. These buildings are similar to the new live/work and retail units on Woodrow. Small, incremental scales are compatible with the existing facilities and allow for slower, lower risk development phasing.

Special Project: Church Campus

Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church is a thriving institution in the heart of Mandeville. It provides 18 masses weekly for 17,000 parishioners. Nearly 800 students attend the school with classes from preschool through 7th grade.

The success of the church, however, has created problems for neighborhood residents, with parking and street congestion increasing. The church has continued to acquire property as it becomes available, yet the lack of a master plan has infuriated some citizens. The proposed comprehensive plan for the church campus addresses the community’s concerns.

The proposed campus plan for Our Lady of the Lake Church provides a rationalized approach to expansion that if agreed to by all parties would remove uncertainty, reduce the negative impacts of church-related parking on the community, and provide spaces that would contribute to Mandeville’s public realm.

The proposed property boundary ensures a contained growth strategy, alleviating concern among some neighbors. The congregation plans a new church in which all parishioners can be accommodated. The proposed plan demonstrates how expansion can be managed as a cohesive campus that contributes to the surrounding community rather than impose upon it.

Special Project: Waterfront

The Mandeville lakefront is the historic gateway to the city as laid out in 1834 by Bernard de Marigny. New Orleans residents would arrive daily to enjoy the fresh air, cooler temperatures and resort lifestyle as well as the music venues. Ferry landings existed at both Girod and Coffee Streets. The waterfront had numerous hotels as well as recreational facilities, including bathhouses and a wooden water slide. The lakefront currently has few facilities for those who might arrive by boat or who would amuse themselves with water oriented facilities.

A proposed mooring provides boaters a place to tie up near restaurants and bars. Pavilions at the ends of the mooring provide attractive termination for two principal streets, while a floating pool offers a fun and safe spot for young folks to swim in the lake.

The new waterfront plaza creates a new regional destination for boaters and can provide a venue for aquatic concerts facing south and away from Mandeville. This type of water front feature is in keeping with the traditional role that Mandeville played as a entertainment and vacation community serving New Orleans and beyond.

General Projects

Several proposals have been incorporated into the plan to address overall drainage and infrastructure issues, in addition to a set of sustainability guidelines to herald future development in Mandeville.

Existing Town Center. Proposed Town Center. Existing Lakefront. Proposed Lakefront with boat houses and concert area. Existing Church Campus.
Proposed Church Campus. Existing Drainage Condition: Inappropriate choice of paving materials and inadequate planting maintenance lead to poor drainage and unsightly sidewalk conditions. Proposed Drainage Condition: Planting strips are replaced with wellweathering materials, such as brick. Permeable materials provide drainage and contrast to the other paving materials. Existing Parking Condition: Inappropriate choice of paving materials and inadequate planting median maintenancelead to unsightly sidewalk conditions Lack of harmony between street lighting and utility poles lead to excessive vertical structures. Proposed Parking Condition: Unsightly and unsuccessfully growing planting strips are replaced with wellweathering materials, such as brick. Permeable materials are situated to provide drainage opportunities in parking strips while also creating an aesthetically pleasing material contrast to the other paving materials. Utility lines are raised to allow the tree canopy to flourish and conceal the utility portion of the now combined lighting and utility poles. Existing Corner Condition: The storm-water drainage is poorly detailed, sized and misplaced, resulting in poor drainage and excessive infrastructure. The lack of quality detailing results in an unpleasant pedestrian experience. Proposed Corner Condition: Drainage portals are concealed underneath brick. Pathways are harmonized with a durable, well-weathering brick material and flowing paths. Way-making is clarified with more visible signage.

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