Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said the city's downtown has been reborn as a cultural, entertainment, professional and retail hub, much like its heyday when the town center was the heartbeat of the city.
"If you come here on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, there are people everywhere, walking and shopping and eating at restaurants," Walker said. "There are always things going on. It's been a total transformation."
That transformation, which has been ongoing for eight years under former Mayor Dan Hollingsworth and now Walker, was recognized Tuesday as one of the best projects in the country by the Engineering News-Record.
Walker and Trotter Hunt of Hunt, Guillot & Associates, the firm that designed the project, accepted the Engineering News-Record's 2015 Regional Best Project Award during an event in Houston.
Ruston’s Downtown Streetscape Project included burying power lines, adding green space throughout the district, enhancing sidewalks and renovating its signature Railroad Park.
"We're proud of the recognition for the project and of our relationship with the leadership of the city and Louisiana Tech (University)," said Hunt, vice president of engineering services with the firm.
The city's Downtown Living Initiative, a separate but related project, encourages the district's property owners to develop upper floors of buildings into lofts to attract more residential growth downtown.
And there's more to come.
The final phases of the project will connect downtown with Tech's campus with a direct walkway and other features that should be complete in about two years.
"It's going to elevate the 'town and gown' relationship between the city and Tech that is so important to both of us," Walker said. "It's an exciting time for the city."