NEW ORLEANS -- As the city begins revealing its plans to upgrade the French Quarter, people wonder how an updated Bourbon Street would look.
It's a plan with a price tag of $4 million. The city said it wants to make the world-famous Bourbon Street safer with more cameras and a pedestrian mall. There are still many unknowns about the plan, and residents are asking how it will change the street's decades-old character and culture.
On Royal Street, you'll find Valobra Jewelry and Antiques with one-of-a-kind world class pieces and an international clientele. One short city block over on Bourbon Street, is a culture light-years away.
"Changing the culture of Bourbon Street and making it more like Royal Street, as much as I would love it, I think it's going to be a very tall mountain to climb," said Franco Valobra, Owner of Valobra Jewelry and Antiques.
Valobra said he welcomes the city's attention to the Quarter because there is concern about the panhandling and homelessness, but he said he's also concerned about making the two streets too similar.
"I like them for the dualism. It's the yin and the yang. They work well together. Let's spend money cleaning it. I have lived in the city 30 years, and I have never seen it this dirty," Valobra said.
Tourist Brent Futo, who brings a crew to the French Quarter a few times a year from his home in Atlanta, said that's what makes Bourbon Street fun.
"We love it," Futo said. "It's a little bit on the seedy side, but that's what makes it New Orleans. That's what makes it fun."
The non-profit GNO Inc. works to bring economic development to Southeast Louisiana and sees a similar goal to Times Square in New York.
"Times Square went from a place that people avoided to a place where people from all over the world come to, not just for tourism, but also for business," said GNO, INC. President and CEO Michael Hecht.
The group feels better lighting, more repairs on the infrastructure and a stricter limit on the types of retailers will make the area more attractive for people who may avoid it, while also upgrading the brand.
"I don't think we're ever going to change the essence of what is Bourbon Street and the French Quarter," Hecht said. "That is baked into the very fat cells of the neighborhood, but I think that we can soften the edges."
The public will have a chance to weigh in on how far the softening goes.
The city says the traffic patterns are being studied now so they can come up with a plan for the pedestrian mall. They want to enforce existing laws and plan more public meetings before there is a proposed design.
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