In January 2012, Arrighi Construction completed the $7.1-million North Boulevard Town Square Project, the first component of Baton Rouge's Riverfront Master Plan, which is aimed at revitalizing the downtown area.

Photos by Paul Lambert
North Boulevard Town Square Project, Phase 1.
Photos by Paul Lambert
North Boulevard Town Square Project, Phase 1.

After 12 months, the two-and-a-half block area of the city's historic North Boulevard area was redeveloped to include specialty pavement, crosswalks and curb extensions. A 40-ft-tall granite-based steel Beacon Tower with an LED screen is the focal point of the square.

The revamped green space also ties together a string of local institutions, including the Baton Rouge City Hall, Old State Capitol, River Center Library, Louisiana Art and Science Museum and Shaw Center for the Arts.

The Town Lawn, part of the town square that serves as an event space, "features an elevated concrete stage to serve as a focal point for concert venues. This opens into a recessed dance floor that slowly steps up through hardscape and landscaping features that goes into a Live Oak Alley, where elevated decks resting on drill shafts surround live oak trees," says Shane Kirkpatrick, executive vice president at Arrighi.

However, the contractor had to take care not to damage the delicate root systems of the trees. The decks have a 3-in.-deep void between them and the ground so the trees' roots can be properly irrigated and have room to breathe. To accomplish this, 50 drilled shafts were finished above grade and topped with concrete beams, metal deck and slab. A mini drill rig was used to drill the shafts beneath the thick canopy of live oaks.

To add to the difficulty, the team also had to construct drilled shafts less than 1,500 ft from the rising Mississippi River. Concerns about possible sinkholes in the levee forced the contractor to mandate seven-day workweeks to get the shafts done quickly.

The North Boulevard area pre-dates the Civil War, so records of previous underground obstructions were nonexistent. As a result, the crew had to re-situate the drill shafts to accommodate unexpected finds.

In the end, multiple 54-in.-dia, 42-ft-deep shafts were constructed.

To help keep the town square easily navigable by pedestrians, the project team had to reconfigure St. Louis Street in relation to North Boulevard and Third Street, which converted the existing diagonal orientation to a right-angled, squared intersection.

After approximately 33,000 man-hours on this project, the team achieved a zero OSHA recordable rate, with no lost-time accidents and no injuries, all while working amid heavy traffic in one of the busiest sections of downtown Baton Rouge. There were also numerous open excavations and man lifts working as high as 40 ft in the air.