Alumni Profile: Elizabeth Thomas

Executive Director, Center for Planning Excellence

Provide an educational background including professional experience.

Bachelor of Science from LSU. (1966)
Master of Landscape Architecture from LSU. (1989)

Professional experience includes the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), Plan Baton Rouge, Mid City Redevelopment Alliance (MCRA), and Chenevert Soderberg Architects, all in Baton Rouge, LA.

Why did you choose LSU for your education?

LSU offered a great research and design program, as well as a community-based design curriculum.

How did your LSU degree help to prepare you for your profession?

I was able to test the many offerings within the school and also access the myriad of opportunities throughout the university.

What current or past research and projects/exhibitions have you done?

I am currently the Executive Director for the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), which was created at the start of this year as a resource for residents, community organizations, developers and elected officials to provide information on best practices for planning and urban design. CPEX has several major projects in the works, including:

Louisiana Speaks

CPEX serves as a liaison between the LRA Support Foundation and the consultant team for the Louisiana Speaks long-term planning process. This effort requires ongoing oversight and dissemination of the concepts, materials, and planning tools created during this process. In this role, CPEX will assist in the implementation of plans by hosting a variety of symposiums and workshops designed to educate, inform, and convene leaders and citizens to discuss Smart Growth initiatives.

Plan Baton Rouge

Plan Baton Rouge is a plan to redevelop downtown into a viable center for all citizens to experience: to work, to play, and to live. I served as the liaison between the consultant team and the clients during and following the charrette process that took place from June 26 – July 2, 1998. The consultant team was led by Andres Duany, Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company; with Alexander Garvin, implementation specialist; Robert Gibbs, Gibbs Planning Group, retail strategist; and Walter Kulash, Glatting Jackson, transportation planner. The clients were the City of Baton Rouge, the State of Louisiana, and the private sector, led by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

Old South Baton Rouge

Plan Baton Rouge secured funds and hired an expert team who created a strategic plan for a defined community adjacent to downtown, bounded by the Louisiana State University Campus to the south, the Mississippi River to the west, downtown to the north and Dalrymple to the east. The Strategic Neighborhood Revitalization and Economic Development Plan coordinates efforts underway and provides an overall vision for a three square mile area by creating guidelines for future physical improvements.

I was also the first Executive Director of Mid City Redevelopment Alliance (MCRA), a non profit agency that acts as the catalyst for the revitalization and redevelopment of neighborhoods surrounding the Baton Rouge General Medical Center. I held that position for seven years. As the founding director of MCRA, I was responsible for organizing and developing a new entity with the mission of rescuing a decaying neighborhood. A Master Action Plan was written with great participation from neighborhood residents and merchants, as well as community leaders and public officials. Through the Fix-Up Mid City program, more than 150 houses were painted and rehabilitated in 6 years.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to build on my experience in neighborhood, downtown, and community planning to make an impact on the recovery of our state through the Center for Planning Excellence.