Two master plans for the 6.2-acre Entergy site on Government Street were unveiled Monday, both calling for a mix of market-rate apartments and commercial space.
Some of the nearly 80 attendees at the public meeting at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Fellowship Hall were concerned that the plans presented by Andres Duany didn’t include an affordable housing component.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker, in whose district the site at 1509 Government St. is located, said there is a shortage of housing that midcity residents can afford.
“I’m trying to find out who set the agenda and how this particular piece of land was determined to be an experiment,” she said. Wicker said she was “all for” Duany’s plans to bring in high-quality housing that attracts mixed-income residents but said she is concerned about the lack of quality affordable housing across Baton Rouge.
Duany, who leads Duany Plater-Zyberk, the Miami-based company selected by the East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority to formulate guidelines for using the area at Government Street, said the plans for redeveloping the Entergy property are conservative and normal. “These are little old square houses with a gravel lot,” he said. “This is the old way of building things, without government all over the place and without big developers.”
The two plans Duany presented for the property both call for keeping the two large brick buildings that front Government Street and redeveloping them for commercial space and loft apartments. An open-air market would be built between the two buildings. They also call for removing the fence around the land and extending the street grid into the property.
Research done by the DPZ team found that the area around Entergy is quite underserved for retail, making it a good market for future development.
And while there had been some talk about making the land a transportation hub, with a station for the proposed Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger railroad, those plans were absent from both proposals.
Duany said putting a station on the other side of the Kansas City Southern rail line “only makes sense technically”. After all, there was a reason the rail station used to be located across the line from the Entergy property. “That station is a monster, with parking, all the unknown factors, et cetera,” he said. “Let that be someone else’s problem.”
The difference between the two plans are that one largely calls for restoring the street grid and building block-sized residential and mixed-use developments, with parking lots inside. The other calls for a “checkerboard” pattern of buildings and gravel lots. By keeping the developments small, the hope is that much of the construction could be opened up to small builders.
“It would be nice to own an eight- to 12-unit apartment building,” Duany said. “If you can put four lots together, it’s a go.”
Gwen Hamilton, interim director of the RDA, said the goal is to make the Entergy redevelopment “a catalytic project” that raises the quality of midcity and the hopes of nearby residents.
“Six acres is a very small site,” she said. “But we’re hoping this partnership creates an environment to further all types of housing opportunities.”
The next step is for the RDA to meet with its partners, including representatives from Mayor-President Kip Holden’s office, the city-parish Department of Public Works, the city-parish Planning Commission, nearby homeowners and nonprofit groups to determine a timeline for asking potential developers to submit requests for proposals to put the site back into commerce, Hamilton said. At that time, it also will be determined if the RDA will choose the grid option or the checkerboard option, or let the potential redevelopers determine what works best for the surrounding community.
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