Officials broke ground Wednesday on a new plaza that aims to make downtown Houma more hospitable to foot traffic.
Representatives of the Houma Rotary Club and Terrebonne Parish government celebrated the start of construction for the Rotary Centennial Plaza on Wednesday.
The plaza, expected to be complete in March, will create an open space and gathering area in the heart of downtown, just off the Courthouse Square. Belanger Street will be closed to vehicle traffic between Grinage and Church streets. The one-block section of Belanger will become a promenade behind Mahony's bar and in front of Milano restaurant.
The area will have a covered archway with lots of lights, held up by pillars, and the street will be lined with benches and tables, said Chris Danos, an architect with DDG, the firm in charge of creating the plaza. The parking lot neighboring Mahony's will be left open to accommodate bands, food trucks and events.
"This is really a face-lift that Terrebonne Parish needs," Parish President Gordy Dove said. "This is beautiful, and this is just an accent to Terrebonne Parish downtown."
The idea traces back at least three years. For two days in December 2019, the parish blocked off Belanger Street and converted Main Street into a single lane of traffic. The experiment gave residents a chance to see and experience what the plaza might look like if completed.
"The concept was to bring the visual element to folks because you can talk about it all day, but they got to experience what would happen," said Anne Picou, parish Main Street manager. "So if you can imagine the street was closed down, we had some temporary poles with strung lights, we put tables and chairs out, we had a two-piece band every 45 minutes that was playing."
Explore Houma, the parish's tourism agency, joined with the South Central Planning and Development Commission in to conduct a survey of those attending the event, and results were positive, Picou said.
Jerry Ledet, chairman of the Rotary committee celebrating the Houma club's 100th anniversary, said the group had been looking for a community project to celebrate the milestone, and the positive feedback from the survey helped persuade the club to choose the plaza.
The $1.2 million cost is being shared by the Houma Rotary Club, which raised $250,000, along with parish government, the Houma Downtown Development Corporation, the Houma-Terrebonne Convention and Visitors Bureau and state money secured by the local legislative delegation, officials said earlier.
This article originally appeared on The Courier: Officials break ground on Rotary Centennial Plaza in downtown Houma