A slate of construction projects on tap at the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging is intended to address not only the needs of senior citizens but also to revamp one of the city's blighted corridors.
The set of projects and proposed plans, totaling more than $65 million, includes relocating the agency's administrative offices, and building a 22,000-square-foot senior center, a commercial kitchen to expand its popular Meals-On-Wheels Program and a senior village — all within blocks of one another in the area known as downtown east.
"I am eager to begin construction in this community, restore commerce in this community and resurrect a sense of community to the area, all while addressing the growing needs of the aging population to eliminate social isolation, support their desire to maintain independence and to age comfortably," Tasha Clark-Amar, the council's CEO, said in a prepared statement.
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No timeline or completion dates have been announced yet, but the Metro Council recently amended a 2016 contract between the city-parish and COA, transferring ownership of a dilapidated building at 1701 Main St. to the agency after remodeling and construction work is completed.
The Main Street building will replace COA's antiquated senior center on Florida Boulevard. The outdated facility was damaged during hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
Angell Jackson, the spokeswoman for the Council on Aging, said the agency has outgrown its current facility due to an increase in membership and the volume of senior citizens they serve daily across the parish.
The Main Street senior center will include a food pantry, activity spaces for arts, crafts and line dancing, a game room and a fitness room.
The $5 million project is being funded primarily by the federal Community Development Block Grant Program with additional investments from the city-parish and COA.
The COA in December announced the purchase of 2.8 acres at North 18th and Fuqua streets. That site, approximately two blocks from the Main Street building, will be home to a 25,000-square-foot commercial kitchen and administrative offices for the COA's programmatic and administrative staff.
The new commercial kitchen is essential to expanding the agency's Meals on Wheels program, which delivers daily meals to 22 senior centers and feeding sites throughout the parish, Jackson said.
COA has also proposed building a senior housing development on 8.6 acres nearby through an arrangement with New Orleans-based Gulf Coast Housing Partnership.
The housing development, Lotus Village, will provide affordable housing to seniors, giving them "networking opportunities and empowering them to retain their vitality, social and intellectual interests," Jackson said.
The entire concept for the revitalization projects were part of discussions dating back to 2014, said city-parish Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel.
"That's really the city's reason to get involved, the concept to revitalize that whole area," he said. "The mayor is totally committed to trying to eliminate blight. These projects are part of that effort and kind of an outgrowth of what going on downtown."
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