Moonwalk overhaul to boost public space on river's edge

The Moonwalk on the New Orleans riverfront is headed for a revitalization that includes shade trees and a wide staircase leading down to water's edge for viewing the river, under a contract the French Market Corp. board approved Wednesday (July 5).

"It will allow people to go down a few steps and and sit and enjoy the riverfront and ships going by," said Kathleen Turner, executive director of the French Market Corp., which manages city-owned French Quarter real estate including the Moonwalk pedestrian pathway.

Dynamic Constructors was awarded a $2.95 million contract for the project. The names of two other bidders on the project were not immediately released. Construction is scheduled to begin July 14 and be finished by spring of next year.

The overhauled Moonwalk will be the French Quarter's showcase piece for the city's upcoming tricentennial celebration in 2018, said board president Demetric Mercadel.

It's also part of a larger riverfront rejuvenation being hammered out at City Hall that includes work on other public spaces, including Spanish Plaza and Woldenberg Park.

The Moonwalk improvements include improved walking surfaces and enhanced lighting to improve safety, Turner said. The project will also add steps the width of Washington Artillery Park stretching down to the river, a feature envisioned in the 2008 master plan for the riverfront, Reinventing the Crescent, Turner said.

Developed in the 1970s during Mayor Moon Landrieu's administration, the Moonwalk broke through a wall of warehouses and sett in motion other projects that opened up public access to the waterfront. It has become a popular spot for tourists to see the river across from Jackson Square.

It stands to get even more pedestrian traffic now that the city of New Orleans has a deal with the Port of New Orleans to take ownership of the remaining working wharves separating the Moonwalk from Crescent Park on the Marigny and Bywater riverfront. The Gov. Nicholls Street and Esplanade Avenue wharves will be converted to public parks under a property swap with the port that puts the Public Belt Railroad under its control.

The French Market Corp. oversees a six-block area from the historic market at North Peters Street to the Upper Pontalba building at Jackson Square and Crescent Park on the riverfront. As a public benefit corporation, it returns a portion of its revenues back to the city each year.

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