Five groups have submitted proposals to redevelop Westmoreland Shopping Center, and officials with the Catholic High School-affiliated nonprofit that owns the Mid City property will spend the next few weeks reviewing the plans.
The goal is to select one or more of the groups to move on to a second phase, where they submit more detailed proposals for the 9.2-acre site, said Gene Tullier, president of Catholic High.
“We’re still at a high level overview,” Tullier said. “We have not narrowed it to potential tenants or specific type businesses.”
Tullier said he was “very happy” with the five groups that responded to the request for proposals to redevelop Westmoreland. While he didn’t give specific details, he said all of the groups showing interest in the property have a local partner. Three or four of the groups had members of the team or partners from outside Baton Rouge.
“The people who responded to this have experience and interests outside of Baton Rouge, which speaks to the vitality of this property,” he said.
All of the proposals call for a mix of residential and retail space on the Westmoreland property, although the proportions, scope and approach all varied.
“A residential component can be a huge plus,” Tullier said. “That would give some vitality to the location 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Mid City provides easy access to LSU, downtown and Baton Rouge Community College, making it a desirable location for people who are tired of commuting.
Tullier said putting in a coffee shop is something that has been discussed. That would be an amenity for the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the students and faculty at Catholic High, Baton Rouge Magnet High and St. Joseph’s Academy, all located near Westmoreland.
A subsidiary of Hearthstone Properties Corp., a tax-exempt corporation whose mission is “to provide support and income” for Catholic High, bought the shopping center near Government Street and Acadian Thruway for $4.85 million in 2010.
For the past few years, the school has used the center as a parking lot and as space for some athletic practices. Last year, Coleman Partners Architects completed a master plan for the entire Catholic High campus, including Westmoreland, clearing the way to start discussing redeveloping the space.
Tullier said what’s going on at Westmoreland is a natural outflow of the activity that has happened downtown, as well as some of the other things going on along Government Street, like the renovations and expansion at Baton Rouge Magnet High, the development of the model block between Ogden and Bedford drives and the efforts to redevelop the Entergy site at 1509 Government St.
“Westmoreland is a real asset and it’s in the mutual best interest for Catholic High and the community to have the best possible redevelopment we can,” he said.