The East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority voted Friday to negotiate with a team led by Weinstein Nelson Development for a $20 million redevelopment of the 6.1-acre former Entergy site on Government Street.
Weinstein Nelson has been involved in the redevelopment of a number of downtown properties, including the mixed-use 440 on Third building and the 500 Laurel St. site. It was one of eight groups that submitted proposals to redevelop the site at 1509 Government St.
Dyke Nelson, co-founder and lead designer, said the goal is to build a development that fits in with the surrounding neighborhoods — a “multigenerational, multicultural, mixed-income facility that accommodates all types of people.” Nelson’s architecture firm, DNA Workshop, has its offices within a block of the property.
“We’re planning a destination spot for Baton Rouge,” he said. The development could potentially include family entertainment; a restaurant; “a healthy living-focused shop” that would include exercise facilities and sell healthy meals; event space; retailers; and commercial offices, Nelson said. There would be 24 housing units in the first phase for elderly residents.
“We want to be aggressive and get those historical buildings back into commerce as quickly as possible,” he said. The goal is to start construction at the beginning of 2017 and have the first phase complete by the end of the year.
More housing will be built in the second phase of the development. Plans call for 66 residential units and 12 single-family homes. The entire development should be completed by 2020.
The goal is to tie the site into the existing neighborhoods and into the proposed passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Discussions at Friday’s meeting centered around Weinstein Nelson leasing the property from the RDA for 8 percent of the total value of the development, a move that would pump in $150,000 a year to the cash-strapped organization. The RDA could generate additional money if it sells part of the development to private investors. There also was discussion of using tax-increment financing, which rebates sales taxes paid on goods and services within the development, to cover some infrastructure costs.
“I think we have a winner,” said Samuel Sanders, executive director of the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance who served on the committee that reviewed the eight proposals for the site. “They kept on saying ‘destination, destination, destination.’ They want to add more to what’s being done on Government Street.”
Weinstein Nelson’s team, which is doing business as Electric Depot LLC, has a number of design and development partners, including CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure; Joseph Furr Design Studio; Stantec engineering; HR&A Financial Consultant; National Housing Consultant Services; GAS Ventures, a group that includes local developer Anthony Kimble along with former LSU basketball stars Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Garrett Temple; the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Foundation; former Community Coffee CEO Matt Saurage; and Todd Stevens, president and CEO of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.
John Noland, chairman of the RDA board of directors, said he was “thrilled” to see the team was made up of many people he hoped would be involved in any redevelopment of the Entergy site.
“These are people who have sponsored winners in Baton Rouge,” he said. “They’re proven players here.”
Another factor in the selection of Weinstein Nelson was that the group owns property around the Entergy site and has an eye toward acquiring more land. This means they’re looking at redeveloping “16 to 20 acres” of land in Mid City instead of just the 6.1-acre site, Noland said.
The next step is for Weinstein Nelson and the RDA to negotiate a development agreement, a process that John Fregonese, who helped write the request for proposals to redevelop the site, said could take two weeks to two months.
“This is the beginning,” Fregonese said. “We’ve handed out the rose, now we have to get down to a serious engagement.”
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.