Reclaiming the lakefront : Pontchartrain Beach and Lakeshore Park

Material Information

Reclaiming the lakefront : Pontchartrain Beach and Lakeshore Park
Algero, Brittany
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
School of Landscape Architecture and Planning, College of Design, Construction and Planning, University of Florida
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Bayous ( jstor )
Canals ( jstor )
Lakes ( jstor )
Lakeshores ( jstor )
Land use ( jstor )
Levees ( jstor )
Parks ( jstor )
Recreation ( jstor )
Stormwater ( jstor )
Waterfronts ( jstor )
New Orleans


The Pontchartrain Beach and Lakeshore Park project is a four mile, 240 acre park renewal project in New Orleans, Louisiana, directly north of the historic downtown. There were three main goals in this project. Firstly, the project seeks to educate the people about the importance of water quality management. Secondly, it educates visitors about the history of the site through interpretation. Finally, it provides recreation and gathering spaces along the lake where there is currently no programmed space. The site is currently underutilized and provides enormous recreational and interpretational potential in a city that has limited contact with natural water.
General Note:
Landscape Architecture capstone project

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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RECLAIMING THE LAKEFRONT: Pontchartrain Beach and Lakeshore Park By: Brittany Algero New Orleans, LA


-2-3acknowledgements... I would like to acknowledge.... ...the God who gives me strength and encouragement family who love and support me in all of my endeavors parents and grandparents who always encourage me to be the very best version of myself, to make education a priority in my life, and who instilled in me a love for the culture of New Orleans studio friends, who have become more like family than classmates, and who made my time in college the very best years of my life capstone advisor, Lester Linscott, who dedicated his time to making this project a success ...and the city of New Orleans, which still holds my heart.


-4-5table of contents Chapter 1: An Introduction Site Introduction Site Location Project Intent Goals and Objectives Chapter 2: A History Chapter 3: Inventory & Analysis Site Context (Regional and Adjacent Maps) Existing Conditions Existing Sections Layer Analysis Site Analysis Chapter 4: Synthesis Opportunities and Constraints Major Site Issues Synthesis Chapter 5: Concept Initial Concepts Final Concept for Site Design Concept for Form Chapter 6: Masterplans Overall Masterplan Small Scale Masterplans Additional Areas of Focus Chapter 7: Interpretation Interpretation Ideas Chapter 8: Conclusion Chapter 9: Bibliography


chapter one: an introduction


-8-9site introduction Beginning in the early 1800s, residents of New Orleans would leave the city in the summer time take advantage of the cool lake breezes and outdoor recreation. As time passed and technology improved, a railroad was built to connect the city to the lake and it became one of the premier spots in the city for outdoor entertainment and music. People also began to build weekend homes, called camps, on stilts in the water and these became an iconic image for the lakefront. In the 1940s the area gained recognition as the Coney Island of the South, with amusement parks and sand beaches. Over time, however, improvement projects on site and in the surrounding area, such as large scale dredging projects, began to degrade the water quality, so much so that in the 1980s, the amusement park closed and the government declared the lake unsuitable for recreation. Since then, through the the water quality now meets federal regulations for over the land formally occupied by the amusement park and the rest of the land has been left open to the public as a park. However, with no programmed space and no advertising, the park remains severely underutilized, especially in a city that denies the public access to bodies of water with levees and dikes. site location Lake Pontchartrain Lake Pontchartrain Site Location Downtown New Orleans Mississippi River The site is located along the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain on approximately 4 linear miles of waterfront property. Currently the site is a 420 acre public park and surrounding landuses include residential, commercial, and institutional. One half mile directly south of the project site is city park, a large scale urban park wtih public and private uses. In addition, the site is about 5 miles north of the historic downtown core of New Orleans.


-10-11goals and objectives Goal 1: To create a recreation and civic hub for the city of New Orleans centered on the lake and the opportunities it offers. a. To design programmed activity spaces that act as magnets to attract people to the site from around the city b. To establish a park that provides the full gamut of activities including active and passive, team and solitary, and land and water based recreation c. To provide connections to existing and proposed open space or green infrastructure in the surrounding context Goal 2: To educate visitors and local residents about the history place on it. a. To design visual communication tools and signage throughout the site, preferably in a linear fashion Goal 3: To promote the continued improvements made to the water quality of the lake. a. To educate the general public about the importance of watershed and water quality management through visual storm water management strategies b. To manage the stormwater runoff on the site in a visual and meaningful way project intent Why this project? Project Scope This site represents the marriage of my favorite aspects of landscape architecture. It encompasses natural recreation, public open space, large scale planning, natural and historical sensitivity, and waterfront design. Project Potential The site has unlimited potential. It is currently completely underutilized due to lack of programmed recreation and advertizing. This park has been in the past and has the potential to become one of the premier public parks in the region. Personal Interest Having been raised in New Orleans, my parents and grandparents have fond memories of Pontchartrain Beach and I believe that it would have had a profound impact on my childhood had the area been operational at the time. In summation, the possibility of working with a project that is so versitle and underutilized and my desire to give back to the city that gave me so much, compelled me to choose this project.


chapter two: a history


-14-15Louis Armstrong records West End Blues along with several other jazz classics. 1920s People build camps at Milneburg to use as family weekend houses on the water. 1920s Spanish Fort known nationally as the Coney Island of the South 1900s Harriett Beecher Stowe wrote about Lake Pontchartrain in Uncle Toms Cabin. 1852 The New Canal Basin extension from New Orleans to West End is opened. 1838 A hurricane killed 2,000 people in New Orleans. 1893 1926 Orleans Levee Board begins construction to regain land on the lakefront. 1928 Pontchartrain Beach built opposite Spanish Fort on Bayou St. John. 1930s Lincoln Beach, a African American beach, is built. 1937 Bonne-Carre Spillway opened. 1938 The seawall on Lake Pontchartrain opened. 1926 Spanish Fort Amusement Center closes. Industrial Canal opened by the Army Corps of Engineers. Campanellas, an example of a typical weekend retreat camp on the lake Spanish Fort Amusement Park West Rigolet Lighthouse circa 1855 1921 1855 ADD INFO: Port Pontchartrain light house replaced moved inland. site timeline The New Basin Canal is constructed from New Orleans to West End. Irish laborers were used and thousands died of thousands died of disease during its construction and were buried where they fell. 1830s The fort on Bayou St. John is decommisioned and is known as Spanish Fort to locals. 1823 The French establish Fort St. Jean on Bayou St. John to protect New Orleans from an attack from the lake. Bayou St. John meets Lake Pontchartrain circa 1940s. 1701 Local indians show two Frenchman, Iberville and Bienville, a short trail connecting the lake to the Misissippi River, known as The Old Portage. 1699 Forts Pike and Macomb are constructed. 1818 1832 Pontchartrain Railraod was built which connected New Orleans to Milneburg along Elysian Fields. The Elysian Fields. The train was called the Smokey Mary. First Lighthouse was constructed at Milneburg. 1832 1795 Gov. Carondelet begins construction of a canal to connect the lake to Bayou St. John and the Mississippi River. a history of the south shore of lake pontchartrain site timeline


-16-17Pontchartrain Beach circa 1940 Post Katrina flood conditions, 2005 WPA making a sand beach at Pontchartrain Beach, 1939 Pontchartrain Beach in its heyday circa 1940s Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park circa 1940 Pontchartrain Beach amusement park closes. 1983 Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) is completed. I would allow for salt water intrusion into the river and became 3 times its original size in 25 years. Also, it gave Hurricane Katrina a direct path to the city. 1965 Amusement park moves from its original location near Spanish Fort to Elysian Fields. 1840 Spanish Fort Amusement Park is demolished. 1840 Lincoln Beach closes due to de-segregation laws. 1964 2011 West End light house is restored by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in Lousiana 2005 1950 Final trip of the Smokey Mary Railroad to West End an excerpt on Lake Pontchartrain from Uncle Toms Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852 site timeline


chapter three: inventory and analysis


-20-21site context surrounding landuse and context Lake Pontchartrain Project Site West End This is a mixed use area. It features a marina and house boats with a park, the New Orleans Yacht Club, and a Coast Guard facility. The site is predominately surrounded by single family detached housing. The large highways, shown on the map, are mostly to the south of the project site. There is not area. The Industrial Canal, which connects Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans, lies just east of the site. Notable Land Uses: Landuse Summary: City Park This is the largest urban park in the southeast at 1300 acres. The southernmost portion of the park is dedicated to public use while the northern portion is mostly golf courses. University of New Orleans Technology Campus This is a college campus that is built on property leased from the Orleans Levee Board. Industrial Site There is a small industrial site just east of the project boundary. This inductrial site is just west of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport (not shown). This is an historic airport currently used for small aircraft. Industrial Canal


-22-23existing conditions 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 existing conditions


-24-25SCALE: 1=500 existing sections existing sections 90 Levee 210 Open Space 30 Parking 80 picnic shelter and garden 40 Lakeshore Drive 80 Open Space and Seawall 48 Lakeshore Drive over the levee (2 lanes in each direction) SCALE: 1=500


-26-27existing sections existing sections Lakeshore Drive (2 lanes) Single Family Homes Levee Open Space Parking Entrance Open Space and Seawall SCALE: 1=500 70 wide levee (17 tall) 160 open space 130 beach SCALE: 1=500


-28-29analysis layers layer analysis Roadway Levee Site Boundary Potential Site Extensions Water Bodies Composite 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 The seawall the runs the entire length of the project. The beach at Pontchartrain Beach. The edge condition along the lakeshore. London Ave. Canal Bayou St. John Orleans Ave. Canal Lake Pontchartrain 17th St. Canal Pontchartrain Beach The historic entrance to the city from Lake Pontchartrain. It represents the only meeting of the only natural water bodies on the site, Bayou St. John and the lake. THE LAKE SHORE The lake is the main focus of the park and runs along the northern edge of the site. It features a seawall along the entire length of the project, approximately 4 miles. The lakeshore intersects the Canal Basin), Orleans Ave. Canal, Bayou St. John, and the London Ave Canal, respectively from west to east. The water quality has recently been improved to meet dredging degraded the water quality. Water Bodies


-30-31The project boundary consists of the open space between the lake and the residential neighborhood to the south. The park is about 240 acres and consists of several large trees and a two picnic structures. It is divided by canals into 4 major sections and then further divided by the roadway system. Typical existing vegetation on site. Example of a small picnic structure and open space. Open space near Pontchartrain Beach. A man and a boy walking along the lake with the Causeway in the background. Project Boundary Potential Extensions layer analysis There are several sites, marked in yellow, that are adjacent to the project area and could be open space areas that are run along the canals and bayous. These areas are directly connect to the existing project boundary and are currently designated as city open space. An example of some of the existing, mature vegetation near Spanish Fort. The bridge at Bayou St. John and the concrete levee


-32-33ROADS There is one road runs the length of the project area, Lakeshore Drive. Its relationship with the lake edge and the levee varies. It weaves its way through the site, up and over the levee at some points and along the waters edge at direction. There is a short area where the road leaves the project area and enters a residential neighborhood adjacent to the site. It returns at the Bayou St. John bridge. Four main roads connect the site to the rest of the city: West End Blvd, Canal Blvd, Paris Ave, and Elysian Fields. A typical view from Lakeshore Drive A parking lot off of Lakeshore Drive. Parallel parking along Lakeshore Drive. The bridge over the London Canal. Lakeshore Drive Elysian Fields Paris Ave. Beauregard Ave. St. Bernard Ave. Marconi Dr. Canal Blvd. West End Blvd. Roads that directly connect with the Historic Downtown, about 4 miles southeast of the site. Roadway Network layer analysis THE LEVEE The levee runs the entire length of the project and usually serves as the southern boundary of the project area. It ranges in height from 14-17 feet. Aesthetically, it is very simple, appearing as a grassy mound, except in the Pontchartrain Beach area, where it is much more concrete and structural. When it intersects the canals, it follows along either side of the canal edge and eventually forms a check dam across the canal. It blocks the noise and view from the city with the exception of the second stories of the houses immediately adjacent to it. People commonly walk along the top of the levee. The levee at Pontchartrain Beach. The lighthouse behind the levee at Pontchartrain Beach. The levee as it appears along most of the project. The rooftop of a three story home behind the levee. The locations where a road crosses over the levee London Ave. Canal Bayou St. John Orleans Ave. Canal The Levee layer analysis


-34-35site analysis site analysis Missing road connection due to levee Areas of Historical Areas of Historical Major Points of Ingress and Egress Canals/Bayous Lakeshore Drive Existing Structures Levee Areas outside of project area Elysian Fields Paris Ave. Canal Blvd. Historic Spanish Fort Pontchartrain Beach Bayou St. John London Ave. Canal Orleans Ave. Canal Residential University of New Orleans Technology Campus Major Points of Ingress and Egress Canals/Bayous Lakeshore Drive Existing Structures Levee Picnic Shelter Picnic Shelter Fountain West End Historic Marina West End Blvd.


chapter four: site synthesis


-38-39ELEMENT SEAWALL LAKESHORE DR. LACK OF PROGRAMMED SPACE THE LAKESHORE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS SURROUNDING LAND USE HISTORIC IMPORTANCE OPPORTUNITY The seawall is a historic piece of infrastructure on the site and invites people to engage the water. It also makes certain water based activities The four lane, two way road offers the chance to build upon the existing road infrastructure. Also, its winding, organic The lack of any programmed space offers a clean slate to work with as far as recreation space is concerned. There is almost no limits in this respect. The lake is an underutilized resource and has the potential to become the center of recreation for the city. The University of New Orleans offers a particular user group to design for. The surrounding land uses consists mainly of mid to upper class, single family homes. This provides a plethora of potential users in close proximity to the site. The park is very important to many people in New Orleans and it gives this project meaning. It also offers an opportunity to design with a historical perspective. CONSTRAINT It runs along the entire length of project and offers no visual attraction or varience. It also does not afford the site, as it currently exists, any natural edge or vegetation. The roadway segregates potential large scale open spaces and does not create a very pedestrian friendly park. The site is not very popular for recreation as it exists so the image of the space will need to be revisited. Its location is extremely valuable to this project and blocks the view of the beach from the city. It is not the best use of the space but will most likely remain due to the permanence of its buildings. Because the surrounding land is uses are not varied, it offers little outside of the park to entice visitors. Because this site is so historical, the design should be sensitive to the events that took place on the site. ELEMENT PONTCHARTRAIN BEACH THE LEVEE PARKING CANALS EXISTING VEGETATION NEARBY OPEN SPACE OPPORTUNITY The beach offers the opportunity to pro vide a public swimming area, which is a Also, it affords the ability return the site to a former, historic use. The levee provides the dual function of blocking out the noise of the city while also protecting the surrounding residen tial communities from any noise that may come from events at the park. It also visually contains the site. The canals break up the large scale of the project in a logical, historical man ner. It also brings the waterfront into the city and does not limit water access to only the edge of the lake. There are a number of large speciman trees, including oaks and palms that give the site and older, more mature feeling. The nearby neighborhood parks offers the ability to enhance the open space connectivity in the area. There are also several large open space parcels nearby that are underutilized that could be further developed to increase the amount of open space in the area. CONSTRAINT The levee can restrict access to the site and also limits the design since the design cannot interfear or impair the levee in any way. The parking is very sporatic and often disjointed with Lakeshore Drive. The park ing will need to be improved upon in the design. The canals segregate the site and does site. The existing vegetation is somewhat spo ratic and will need to be supplemented in most places. There is also little to no variety. opportunities and constraints opportunities and constraints


-40-41program analysis program analysis Recreational Historical Hydrological Hydrological: Recreational & Historical Historical & Hyrdological Recreational & Hyrdological Recreational, Historical & Hyrdological Historical: Recreational: Stormwater Ponds Retain Stormwater on Site Visual Conection to the lake Information Center Museum Museum Signage along Bayou St. John Kayak and Canoe Rentals Trails along Canals Maintain Seawall Signage along lake edge Retain Existing Structures Scenic Drive with Signage Use Historic Architectural Styles Focus on Elysian Fields Entrance of Pontchartrain Beach Interpretive Signage Open Space Fishing Piers Commercial/ Restaurants Picnic Space Community Center Ampitheater Beach


-42-43site synthesis site synthesis Existing structure to remain Existing structure to remain Lakeshore Driveopportunity to take advantage of existing infrastructure Lakeshore Driveopportunity to take advantage of existing infrastructure Ideal for commercial center Reuse building Existing Fountainneed to create urban context Ideal for recreation centermaintain existing vegetation Take advantage of views Link the park space along the canal to the lake Spanish Fort Opportunity to maintain existing structure Opportunity to formalize entrance Historic area that needs to be emphasized Opportunity to incorporate commercial activities Opportunity to connect three main elements: Recreational, Historical, and Hydrological Historic LighthouseOpportunity to create a Elysian Fields Pontchartain Beach Opportunity to restore the historic beach to its former prominence Opportunity to take advantage of lake viewsonly area on project site where the lake and road are behind the open space Canals and Bayou offer the recreation and interpretive opportunities Canals and Bayou offer the recreation and interpretive opportunities Opportunity to formalize entrance Open Space that provides recreation opportunities Open Space that provides recreation opportunities




-46-470 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 project boundary are Pontchatrain Beach to the east, Bayou St. John and Spanish Fort in the center, and West End on the western edge of the project. The most important hydrologic elements on the site are the canals, Pontchartrain. Recreation is a major component of the this project and due to the projects form, the most important sites for recreation are where there is a large area that could be dedicated to recreation. Also, this concept seeks to take advantage of the canals as well. HISTORICAL HYDROLOGICAL RECREATIONAL concept approach initial concepts Two Approaches to Concept Development: Nodal Frequency: Nodal Frequency : This concept is focused on the frequency of nodal goals and objectives for this project: hydrology, history, and recreation. Where these opportunities overlap, nodes will be created that emphasize the overlaping elements. Motion vs. Stationary : This concept is developed based on the idea that some activities will be stationary, meaning that users will visit the site to use a particular program element, such as a community center. Other elements are motion based, meaning that users will visit multiple areas of the park in one visit, such as a bike trail. The main goal of this concept is to use the motion based elements as connective tissue that links the stationary activities together.


-48-490 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500 Commercial Hub: Small scale shops and restaurants, social recreation opportunities, possible connection to West End Recreation Hub: Nature based recreation facilities, equipment rentals, etc. Historic Beach: Formal entrance, restored beach Major civic space, provides a reason for people to visit the site Motion based design; design as an experience Stationary design; based on program elements designed to bring people to an individual location Motion vs Stationary: Composite Concept: Final Concept: initial concepts When the two concepts are combined, they identify, for the most part, the same areas of concentration, or nodes. incorporating elements from both initial concepts 0 1/4 mile 1/2 mile 3000 0 500 1500


-50-51concept for form The concept for the form is based on the following factors: The existing edge shape and roadway : Lakeshore Drive and the existing lake edge is curvilinear in shape and together they form spaces that vary in length and width. The goal of the project to reconnect the user to natural processes : By using natural shapes, the design form creates natural looking spaces instead of rectilinear spaces. The juxtapostiion of the unnatural lake edge with organic forms : The lake edge, currently a concrete seawall, and


chapter six: masterplan


-54-55overall site masterplan overall site masterplan Commercial Core Parking Visitor Information Center Exising Fountain Orleans Avenue Canal Community Center Museum Sculpture Garden Park Plaza Great Lawn Parking Observation Tower Parking Garage Pedestrian Bridge Parking Parking Main Entrance for Pontchartrain Beach University of New Orleans Technology Campus Lakeview Park Bayou St. John London Ave Canal 0 500


-56-57-commercial core masterplan 0 50 100 200Restaurant Space Small-Scale Commercail Buildings Stormwater Pond Promenade Greenway Stormwater Channel The commercial core utilizes historic dock forms and architecture to create a waterfront restaurant and commercial center that relates to the adjacent mixed use area, West End. The surface water from the road and parking area is collected in a stormwater channel along the green space next to the promenade.


-58-590 50 100 200 Fishing Dock Community Center Sand Volleyball Courts Museum Amphitheater Picnic Area Native Grass Dunes Stormwater/ Wetland commercial core masterplan With spaces like an amphitheater, picnic areas, and a museum, the community center area seeks to create programmed, community-based, recreation space. It also focuses on stormwater runoff, collecting all of the water from this smaller scale site into a small wetland. 0 20 40 Section showing community center, stormwater channels, amphitheater, and museum.


-60The entrance of Pontchartrain Beach is a shared space with the University of New Orleans Technology Campus. The design diminishes the importance of the 17 levee, which runs between the entrance and the beach, utilizing earth mounds surrounding a public plaza and with grand staircase that transverses the levee. 0 50 100 200 Entrance Parking Existing Historic Lighthouse Mounds Grand Staircase Handicapped Access Native Dune Grasses Existing Levee Fishing Pier Plaza beach masterplan


-62-63additional areas of focus Pedestrian Promenade: The proposed water front promenade extends the entire length of the project, from the proposed commercial core to Pontchartrain Beach. Pedestrian Bridge: Located where the park intersects the canals, the proposed pedestrian bridges separates




-66-67interpretation ideas Information Center The purpose of the Information Center is to orient Historic Architecture/Railings The restaurant and boardwalk area design incorporates traditional architecture and features, such as the historical railings, pictured to the left. Promenade Timeline proposed interpretation includes a site timeline along the promenade. The timeline features architectural elements as well as places to stop and gather groups together, like school children. To the left is the cultural trail in Indianapolis, IN. Spanish Fort The Spanish Fort is on the National Register of Historic Places. Interpretation for this area includes a timeline and explanation communities in southeastern Louisiana. along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.


chapter eight: conclusion


-70-71conclusion access to the water.


chapter nine: