They party in downtown Hammond.
Hammond Downtown Development District staff have returned from a trip to Virginia to collect their 2022 Great American Main Street award and are planning a celebration to open the city’s new Railroad Park.
The district will mark the grand opening of the park, located in the heart of downtown Hammond, with ceremonies beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1.
“It’s finally happening,” said Michele Kindall, the district’s assistant director of personnel. “Railroad Park has just been completed and it’s time for our grand opening. The celebration will begin with opening remarks from city leaders and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. We invite everyone to bring lawn chairs and listening to live music as we all pay homage to our beautiful downtown.
After the inauguration, Will Vance and the Kinfolk will take the stage and perform until 8 p.m. Light refreshments will be available on site. At the same time, engraved bricks recently purchased by members of the community will be unveiled at the opening.
“Railroad Park has been a longtime neighborhood project since 1998,” Kindall said. “The property has long been referred to as the ‘town centre’ of downtown Hammond, throughout master plan updates. With the renovation now complete, the public space has been transformed into a refreshing and eye-catching park for all to enjoy in the heart of downtown Hammond.
District Manager Chelsea Tallo Little said, “Railroad Park embodies a new approach to public spaces and is an example of our community working together. It is with great enthusiasm that this space is finally ready for its debut.
The park, designed by Roy Dufreche and Associates, boasts a barrier-free design that includes accessible entrances, improved sidewalks and additional protection from nearby train tracks and vehicular traffic. Features of the park include three resurrected oak trees, the restored Stewart Monument which honors the heroism of a former Hammond resident, the performance stage, a large-scale outdoor mural “Hammond Daydream”, by Britt Flood, and durable metal letters, seating, lighting and public restrooms.
Kindall said additional benches, tables and signs with brief messages telling Hammond’s story will be added to the park later. She explained that supply chain issues have delayed the installation of these additions to the park.
“It’s only going to get better,” she said.
The park was built at a cost of approximately $850,000. Over the years, the district has saved funds from a tax that businesses in the district have self-assessed. The town of Hammond also contributed funds, a small deposit was secured and residents contributed by purchasing commemorative bricks, Kendall said.
Celebrations of a different kind were seen at the District’s newly renovated offices last week when staff returned from Richmond, Va., where it was announced the District had received one of three Great American Main Streets. 2022 Awards for Innovative Use of the Main Street Approach, including Excellence in Comprehensive Preservation-Based Commercial District Revitalization.
In an announcement that the district had won the award, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser congratulated the district on national recognition for its work in transforming his community into a catalyst for change.
“Our historic downtowns are the heart of their communities and people who live near these areas will reap the benefits of commercial building enhancements,” he said.
The district was selected for the award by a national jury of community development professionals and leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation.
A statement from the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development said, “The Downtown Development District is recognized for its strong historic preservation efforts, vibrant small business environment, and dedication to creating inclusive, people-centered places. “
Kendall said the award “is the culmination of forty years of a community coming together to preserve and adapt our downtown historic district. Over the years, many have worked hard not only to preserve our downtown , but also to make it a place that remains vibrant, vibrant and conducive to businesses and residents. We have worked to foster a community that is a great place to live, work and play. We have involved the public and private sectors in our efforts to ensure that downtown remains an integral part of what our city is all about.
Main Street America President and CEO Patrice Frey said, “Hammond’s commitment to community engagement is key to their success. Their extensive outreach efforts have ensured that the revitalized neighborhood reflects the diversity of area residents, business owners and visitors.
Main Street America is a national organization that supports the revitalization of old and historic downtown business districts and neighborhoods through education and training, gathering and networking opportunities, advocacy for programming and technical assistance.