Renovations to the vacant historic Hotel Lincoln property, which had catered to African Americans and hosted entertainers like Aretha Franklin, James Brown and B.B. King, are planned by the end of this year, with a mixed-used development projected to open next fall.

Construction on the 12,000-square-foot property is expected to cost $1.7 million and support 20 construction jobs for several months. 

Solomon Carter, a local developer and owner of Amelia Fine Construction, plans to restore the property by turning it into apartments with ground-floor retail tenants. Carter's company will be the general contractor for the project and expects to seek bids soon. 

Hotel Lincoln opened in 1955 and operated during a time when black guests were often turned away from white-owned establishments. Located at 400 Eddie Robinson Drive near the intersection of Government Street just east of Interstate 110, it has been vacant since the 1980s.

The lunch room inside the hotel also had famous performers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong stop by.  

The East Baton Rouge Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for the mixed-used development in April.  

"We're hoping by early next month to be applying for construction permits," Carter said. "Everything is looking really good right now and we're moving along."

Anthony Kimble, managing partner of Kimble Properties, is a co-developer of the project. 

The pair are planning to create 12 one-bedroom apartments inside the former hotel rooms. Each apartment is expected to be about 600 square feet and rent for about $850 per month. Some of the apartments will be converted into short-term rentals. By comparison, one-bedroom apartments inside The Electric Depot, a former Entergy property being revitalized nearby off Government Street, cost $1,150 per month. 

"There's a waiting list in all of the one-bedroom apartment buildings in that area, so it's a good sign," Carter said. 

The first floor of the Lincoln will be split into two retail spaces for a total of 4,000 square feet. Both spaces are under contract but the companies have not yet been disclosed. Carter is negotiating for parking spaces across the street from the property for visitors and tenants. 

In 2017, Carter purchased the historic hotel for $400,000, but the project hit a snag when the former hotel owner filed a lawsuit over the title of the property last year. The case has since been settled. 

In late August, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council approved a five-year property tax abatement worth $25,075 per year through the Louisiana Economic Development restoration tax abatement program for a total of $125,375 shaved off the property tax bill over that time frame. The project is expected to also secure an additional 20% federal historic rehabilitation tax credit. 

This is Carter's first commercial redevelopment project, but his partner Kimble worked on restoration of The Electric Depot. The former Entergy power plant is being turned into a mixed-use development that features the Red Stick Social entertainment venue and 16 apartments, which is a few blocks away from the historic hotel. 

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Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.