The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority will use retail development, single family housing and senior apartments around the Choctaw Drive Piggly Wiggly to jump start the rejuvenation of the North Baton Rouge corridor.
The RDA unveiled its plan Thursday for what it calls the catalyst area for the Choctaw corridor between Interstate 110 and North Foster Drive to about two dozen residents, business owners and community leaders gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Gus Young Avenue.
The Choctaw corridor is primarily commercial and industrial. The RDA notes it borders many north Baton Rouge neighborhoods, but the remaining businesses have trouble attracting customers because of safety concerns and the loss of local residents.
Project Manager Susanna Bing outlined the plan for façade improvements to the 81,000-square-foot grocery store and for the parking lot lined with eight other retail buildings, ranging from 3,500 square feet to 9,000 square feet.
Across North 38th Street to the west, the plan proposes two apartment buildings for seniors totaling 18,800 square feet as well as a 27,500-square-foot civic center.
To the east, the plan calls for extending Delaware Street and lining it with a dozen single-family homes.
The extension would cross Ward Creek, which stretches behind Piggly Wiggly, which Bing said should be rehabilitated and “greened” by the removal of concrete.
The area’s streets, which also includes Iroquois Street, would be lined with trees and a new crosswalk should be put in at Choctaw and North 38th, according to the plan.
Bing said that once the plan for the catalyst area starts becoming a reality, the RDA will move onto its goals for improving the housing stock and commercial buildings in the neighborhood.
Those goals include bringing services such as clinics, pharmacies and day care to the area, as well as extending and connecting dead end streets.
Also being pursued are plans for a trail system that would link the corridor to Memorial Stadium to the south along the railroad and then to the north to Howell Park and to the southeast to Webb Park.
Homer Charles, of Groupe Construction, asked whether there will be any way to ensure that development that goes in the neighborhood uses minority, woman-owned or disadvantaged businesses and creates jobs for neighborhood residents.
RDA President and Chief Executive Officer Walter Monsour said the RDA will make sure to do so when it can, saying its program for ensuring it does is called “if (developers) want our money, they’ll have to play by our rules.”
But he cautioned that while using local resources is important, the goal of bringing services to everyone in the neighborhood will be more important than making sure a few companies or individuals get contracts.
“The bottom line is we want to deliver the product,” he said.
Resident Josie Morgan said she wants any new housing to remain affordable to residents and not squeeze them out with expensive homes and apartments. Monsour assured her that will be the focus.
Monsour said the RDA will use all the tools at its disposal — façade improvement grants, gap financing, new market tax credits, landbanking and the power to free up the titles to properties seized by the city parish for nonpayment of taxes — to make the plan happen.
He said commitments are there from the city-parish to do what it can to make the plan a reality, and that the plan, along with those for Scotlandville, Northdale, Zion City/Glen Oaks and Melrose East, will become part of Future BR, the city-parish’s overhaul of its land use and development plan now under way.
This may mean focusing public works efforts in specific areas, but this simply has to be because “no one is going to put their capital into an area that isn’t holistic in nature,” Monsour said.
The RDA has unveiled plans for Scotlandville and Northdale, and will hold meetings next week for Zion City/Glen Oaks and Melrose East.
The two remaining meetings are:
Zion City/Glen Oaks: June 7, 6–7:30 p.m. at Exxon Mobil YMCA at Howell Place at 7717 Howell Place Blvd.
Melrose East: June 9, 6–7:30 p.m. at BREC Headquarters at 6201 Florida Blvd.
The meetings are open to the public, and participants will be given the opportunity to view and ask questions about the plans.
Anyone with questions regarding the plans or other project information can visit the RDA website at http://www.ebrra.org or call at (225) 387-5606.
More information on the plans is available at http://www.ebrra.org/community_improvement_plans/