Downtown Jennings undergoes revitalization

Published 8:57 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

Downtown Jennings will soon see significant sidewalk, landscaping and lighting upgrades as part of a Main Street streetscape improvement project to revitalize the historic downtown district.

Mayor Henry Guinn said Wednesday construction is underway on a $768,000 project from Plaquemine Street to Nezpique Street as part of the first phase of the project which is expected to be completed by August. A second phase of the project, which will extend from Nezpique Street to Academy Avenue, will be underway later this year.

The project will help revitalize the downtown area and hopefully bring in more visitors, Guinn said.

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“Our downtown needed a shot of energy and some revitalization,” Guinn said. “I am happy we have the funds and the opportunity to continue the streetscape project. Hopefully, it will draw more people downtown.”

The project will enhance multiple stretches of sidewalks along Main Street so that the new sidewalks in the historic district will match the appearance of existing brick sidewalks.

“This is a continuation of a sidewalk improvement project that initially began in front of the new Jennings City Hall,” Guinn said.

The project will extend the brick sidewalks by two more blocks along Main Street.

The streetscape project will also add new landscape planters and replace gas street light lanterns, originally installed in the 1990s, with new LED lights to create a refreshed, inviting look for the historic downtown district.

Plans for the project also include a new concrete parking lot to replace a gravel parking area currently located at the corner of Main Street and Nezpique Street, across from Founder’s Park. The project also calls for adding landscape to the new parking area and relocating a storage building to behind the Strand Theatre.

As part of a separate project, the city is also looking to replace street signs in the historical district with new ornamental street signs at a cost of $250,000.

The city is also working with downtown business owners to create a plan to have many of the storefront canopies affixed to the structures and not anchored to the sidewalks so that crews can install the new sidewalks.

“A lot of the older buildings have canopies that are anchored into the sidewalks which prohibit pedestrian traffic and creates problems with maintenance issues,” Guinn said.

An agreement with the contractor will allow businesses to remain open and accessible throughout the streetscape project. However, some streets may temporarily close to traffic to allow crews to work in areas.

The streetscape project is being funded by reserves in the city’s general fund.

“We’ve always saved our money as a city and completed projects with revenues that were planned for and budgeted,” Guinn said. “We have taken that approach for over 30 years and it makes you very independent. You don’t have to rely on the state to come in and give you capital outlay money and you don’t have to rely on your congressman to secure grants. It gives you the freedom and flexibility to operate your town as your community sees fit and its all from very prudent financial management.”