The development of downtown Baton Rouge has spilled over into the Nicholson Drive corridor, which connects the area to LSU.
More than 3,700 housing units, from condominiums with views of the Mississippi River to new residential units at LSU, are either under construction or on the drawing board.
Plans for the biggest residential development, The River District, were unveiled in January. Lafayette businessman Michel Moreno assembled the project several years earlier by buying land along both sides of Nicholson near Magnolia Mound Plantation. The River District will feature 1,832 residential units, two hotels, 274,000 square feet of office space and 118,500 square feet of commercial space that could possibly include a neighborhood grocery store. Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who represents the River District area, said the development will be a catalyst for growth in Old South Baton Rouge.
“This has been long awaited,” she said.
The city-parish Planning Commission easily approved the concept plans and development drawings for the River District during the summer.
Planning officials also approved in October the first building in the Water Campus, a four-story structure that will be home for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The CPRA building is one of three properties in the first phase of the Water Campus, along with the headquarters for the Water Institute of the Gulf and the River Modeling Center, which will have a small-scale model of the Mississippi River. Construction on the first phase of the Water Campus, which is being built around the Baton Rouge City Dock, should begin in early 2015.
The development of the Water Campus will be aided by a $1.34 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant that will go toward the design and engineering of streets, drainage and sewage.
The development along Nicholson led the city to get a $1.8 million federal transportation grant to study plans to develop a high-capacity transit system to connect LSU and downtown.
John Fregonese, the planner who is helping to implement the FutureBR land-use plan, has said a 7.38-mile streetcar line running from the State Capitol to Tiger Stadium would be feasible, could be built without rebuilding roads and would easily fit under Interstate 10. Fregonese pegged the cost of the line at $100 million and said a mix of federal and private sources could pay for it.
While the streetcar line has received much of the attention, Fregonese said other transit systems could be used along Nicholson, such as expanded CATS service or a bus-rapid transit system that combines the efficiency of streetcars with the flexibility of buses.