Building single-family homes and attracting neighborhood commercial development will be an important step to lifting the fortunes of Melrose East, a neighborhood north of Florida Boulevard that is predominantly rental properties.
But the real starting point for the neighborhood, bounded by Florida, Renoir Avenue, Lobdell Boulevard and Ardenwood Drive, will be the development of Smiley Heights to the north.
Those were the main findings of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority’s fifth and final community improvement plan, unveiled Thursday at BREC’s headquarters on Florida Boulevard.
The RDA, using input gathered from each community last year, has also produced plans for Scotlandville, Northdale, the Choctaw corridor and Zion City/Glen Oaks. They will all be rolled into the ongoing overhaul of the city-parish’s land use and development plan.
The RDA created two catalyst areas for Melrose East.
One would be between North Ardenwood Drive and Executive Park Avenue, at which the RDA will work to bring 19 single-family homes and three commercial buildings that might include childcare, a laundry or other services. It would also include two new streets and landscaping.
The second would be along Bon Marche Drive, located between Lobdell and Harry Drive, and would include 24 new single-family homes, three commercial buildings that are focused on providing basic services, and a new street.
While the plans will take years to implement, the RDA has pledged to apply its resources, which include façade improvement grants, gap financing, new market tax credits, land banking and the power to free up titles to properties seized by the city-parish for nonpayment of taxes.
But RDA President and CEO Walter Monsour told the roughly 20 residents gathered Thursday that the real lift will come sooner from its Smiley Heights development, a 200-acre development anchored by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s new charter school and Baton Rouge Community College’s east campus.
The $18 million charter school, which is on about 10 acres, will open with a study body of about 400 students and quickly make its way to 1,000, and will focus on workforce development in digital media and culinary arts, among others.
BRCC will build 60,000 square feet of classroom space and expects to expand on the property, between Ardenwood and Lobdell just south of Greenwell Springs Road.
Monsour said that having those two major anchors at Smiley Heights, and the surrounding residential and retail development that will follow, will provide a “big assist” by providing the demand for goods and services nearby.
Monsour said the RDA has agreements with nine of the property’s 11 owners and should have the last two secured by the end of the month.