LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Freetown-Port Rico could be seeing major developments near downtown. This comes as the Lafayette Community Development and Planning Department plans to re-zone the area.

The project will create better, safer, more pedestrian friendly streets along Johnston Street near downtown, Freetown, and UL’s campus. The city plans to do this by downzoning the areas of Freetown from a commercial heavy to a commercial mixed zone. Most residents are in support of the idea.

“Anyone in the neighborhood knows that we need more walkable streets, better bikeable streets, safer spaces for our UL students, safer spaces for the kids in our neighborhood, better walkability into downtown. It’s a simple premise,” Freetown Coterie Gabe Griffin said at a town hall meeting about the project Thursday. Griffin is one of many residents in support of downzoning the area.

Mary Sliman, who helped spearhead the project, says properties between Garfield Street and General Mouton along Johnston Street are zoned commercial heavy. By downzoning the area to commercial mixed, she says they can make Johnston Street more pedestrian friendly and connect Freetown-Port Rico with the downtown area.

“By doing this downzoning, doing our study, and seeing what are the opportunities along Johnston Street to give that feel, that’s what we’re working on with the rezoning and also some future projects once we see what our studies come back with,” Director of the Community Development and Planning Department Mary Sliman said.

Sliman says she hopes the downzoning would help people who want to redevelop properties. While some property owners say the plans would hinder their ability to develop, most business owners and Freetown residents welcome the change.

“We as residents don’t feel like our business owners are giving up much. That’s what we’re really here to do tonight was listen, hear anybody else’s point of view on this, if there was anything different that I hadn’t heard before, we wanted to hear it. But overall, we have residents that want safer streets and most of our business owners and residents seem to be in line with those visions of how do we make this UL, downtown, fabric of Freetown come together. So that’s what we’re here for,” Griffin added. The downzoning plans will be placed on the city council meeting for a final decision on July 19.