By Corey Poole
The master plans for the Rue Beauport Riverfront Project were unveiled at a press conference June 6 at the Events Center held by the City and the Cane River Waterway Commission.
“This is going to be a game changer for the downtown riverbank,” said Mayor Lee Posey.
The City will begin work to relocate a sewer line that runs down the middle of the riverbank July 4-11. This line needs to be moved anyway as the City looks ahead to the future downtown bridge construction project.
Bidding for the Rue Beauport Project will begin Oct. 1 and construction will start Jan. 1. It is scheduled as a 10-month project. At $3 million, the CRWC is funding the majority of the project. Chairman Jim Rhodes said the Waterway Commission feels this project will change the dynamics of the whole riverbank as it will become more used.
“We just want to make sure the Cane River is everything it can be,” he said. “We knew we needed to be a part of this.”
Other aspects of the project include:
- Additional restrooms on the lower south end of the riverbank, which will replicate the Roque House architecture.
- Prominent display of the Santa Clause house to promote year-round use
- Removal of all steep stairs along the riverbank
- Construction of ADA compliant ramp at north end of riverbank
- Construction of staggered staircase at south end of riverbank
- A reconfigured stage area (40×60 foot with 20 feet built out over the Cane River) with a canopy consistent with the Roque House’s wood shake roof
- 12-foot wide promenade with lighting and benches along the existing retaining wall of the river consistent with Front Street’s benches and hanging baskets
- An amphitheater across from the stage (will provide seating for 1,200-1,500 people in combination with the promenade) with brick terrace walls built into the slope of the riverbank, which will provide seating and feature step lights
- Reinforced grass area between stage and amphitheater
- Planting of additional oak trees and landscaping of the slopes between Front Street and the parking areas to stabilize the existing erosion problems
Motorists will still be able to drive through and park along the riverbank. Temporary bollards will be used to section off the reinforced grass area from the traffic for special events.
There are still details that need to be worked out, which includes railings over the promenade section that surrounds the stage. The rest of the promenade will feature a safety curb so the view of Cane River remains unobstructed.
“It’s all about the water,” said Carbo.
Another small detail that has yet to be determined is the relocation of some of the transformer boxes on the hillside along the riverbank. The stage will offer visitors a pavilion area with the possibility of movable furniture so they can rest and feel like they’re on the water. The stage will also facilitate a sound booth setup for concerts with permanent lighting and a metal truss system for additional lighting that can be moved up or down.
The biggest concern seemed to be what the vast amount of events that use the riverbank will do while the construction is underway. Carbo said they are working on an accelerated schedule and his gut tells him its optimistic that they’ll finish on schedule. He anticipates the construction will be implemented in a staggered way to retain access to the riverbank for residents and visitors. At some point the whole riverbank will need to be closed, but it won’t be for the entire duration of the project.
Jeffrey Carbo of CARBO Landscape Architecture said the vision for this project began over 20 years ago when the City first commissioned his firm for a master plan envisioning what the riverbank could be.
“I want to commend the City and the Cane River Waterway Commission for three words that most people don’t think about: Quality of Life,” he said.