The City of New Orleans has announced Sasaki as the lead design team for the Lincoln Beach Redevelopment Plan. Today, the team joined the Office of Mayor LaToya Cantrell in City Hall for the contract signing to begin the project’s visionary planning process. The plan underscores waterfront access as a civic priority, creating an accessible, resilient and inclusive future for Lincoln Beach.
Sasaki was selected in a competitive bid after the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for development in June of this year. This new project builds on the firm’s extensive recent work in the region including the award-winning Greenwood Park plan in Baton Rouge. The purpose of the new Lincoln Beach plan is to provide a safe and accessible site for all, one that includes the adaptive reuse of several historic structures on site. The team will also be contemplating active uses on site, that together with the public park space, can create a sustainable funding and operational structure.
“Lincoln Beach reflects New Orleans itself and a deeply layered past. We have a chance to not only recognize the injustice of this beach closure decades ago, but also now create an accessible waterfront for all,” said Joshua Brooks, principal at Sasaki. “New Orleans, despite being a city surrounded by water, does not really have a great culture of amazing waterfront destinations. We hope to change that.”
“The opportunity here is absolutely tremendous,” Brooks told WDSU.
Lincoln Beach is an approximately 15-acre site bounded by Lake Pontchartrain to the north, east and west and by Southern Railroad/Hayne Boulevard to the south. It was established along the shores of the Lake in the mid 1900s as a recreational area for African Americans. The site was managed by the City until its closing in 1964. “The site’s remaining structures present a unique architectural opportunity to adapt historic mid-century structures for new 21st Century uses that welcome everyone,” said Marta Guerra, associate principal at Sasaki.
Public beaches, like other facilities such as schools, swimming pools, and restaurants, were once racially segregated. Lincoln Beach was paired with Pontchartrain Beach, the white beach until desegregation. Instead of integrating, Lincoln Beach was closed and abandoned.
Closed since 1964, structures and facilities at Lincoln Beach have gradually deteriorated over time due to lack of maintenance and a barrage of hurricane impacts, causing unsafe conditions at the site. Now, the planning process will facilitate additional public input and engage residents in formulating and implementing a plan that truly belongs to the community. Lincoln Beach is set to become a new civic commons where people can gather, exercise, play, and relax along an ecologically revitalized waterfront.
The City of New Orleans started the redevelopment process in 2020 by retaining an engineer to complete a Site Assessment and provide design documents that will be used to solicit bids for the improvement of Lincoln Beach and its infrastructure. Specifically, the design project has a focus on restoring safe access through an improved entrance tunnel, re-establishing water/sewer utility service, constructing a permeable parking lot, rehabilitating existing structures, and demolishing unsafe structures that cannot be rehabilitated.
While the new plan will outline a physical transformation of Lincoln Beach, it is also meant to catalyze equitable and inclusive waterfront access across the city. Lincoln Beach is a turning point, not only for environmental and social justice in New Orleans, but also health and well-being. The plan will maintain Lincoln Beach as a cherished civic asset, respecting its history and providing new cultural amenities, while ensuring that it becomes an inviting and inclusive lakefront destination for generations to come.
More information on the Lincoln Beach Redevelopment can be found at nola.gov/lincolnbeach.
Photography by Lionel M. Cottier, New Orleans States-Item, and F.H. Methe, The Times-Picayune.