The urban planner mapping the redevelopment of the former Entergy site on Government Street suggested Thursday that the area be set up as a “pink zone” with reduced red tape to allow younger and smaller developers to operate.
Andres 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 1509 Government St., said he spoke with John Fregonese, the urban planner helping implement the FutureBR land use plan, about writing building codes for the overlay district.
“This is extremely exciting and innovative,” Duany said during a public hearing at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum to show his initial plans for the 6-acre Entergy site.
The DPZ team has been in Baton Rouge since Monday, meeting with representatives from a variety of industries, including real estate, housing and transportation, along with community, church and school groups. The team is working on a predevelopment plan to serve as a road map for whatever developer is selected to work on the Entergy site and for a 100-acre area surrounding the property.
Duany gave two initial concepts for the site: one would restore the city grid that was disrupted when Entergy set up the facility. He called that a “standard issue” plan.
The other, which Duany said is “innovative” and “much cooler,” calls for setting up a checkerboard pattern of buildings on the Entergy property, with gravel parking lots and trees in between.
Both plans call for the site to include a rail station. Duany and RDA officials have said the best value of the property involves making it a transportation hub, because the railroad can tie into Baton Rouge Metro Airport and the CATS bus system. The land is near the Kansas City Southern rail line, and there has been some discussion about turning the facility into a station for a proposed Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger railroad.
“I know you’re going to do a study that costs $800,000 to tell you where the railway station should be,” Duany said. “Just skip it and put the station here.”
The plans also call for keeping the two largest buildings on the Entergy property that front Government Street. Duany said “big developers” should be brought in to renovate them for offices, lofts or retail space, because serious work needs to be done.
One of the buildings is known as the old streetcar repair facility. “You need to keep that name,” Duany said. “And you need to negotiate for developers who will not ruin the building.”
The DPZ team is expected to complete the predevelopment plan in February. If all goes well, the hope is that it will become a model for the surrounding areas and they will want to use some of the ideas and concepts incorporated in the site.
Gwen Hamilton, the interim director of the RDA, said she thought the plans for the site were “fabulous.”
While there are concerns about the Entergy redevelopment leading to gentrification in midcity, Hamilton said the RDA is sensitive to the surrounding neighborhoods. “We want to assure everyone this is self-contained,” she said.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.