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Parking meters on St. Louis Street. Plans to overhaul the parking system in downtown Baton Rouge are continuing to move ahead, with city parish government set to sign a contract Wednesday with a company to manage parking garages and issue a request on Thursday for a company to provide the software to run the new parking meters.  

An overhaul of the parking system in downtown Baton Rouge is moving ahead with city-parish government set to sign a contract Wednesday with a company to manage parking garages and issue a request on Thursday for a company to provide the software to run the new parking meters.

Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, said at a DDD Commission meeting Tuesday the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council is set to vote on the contract with LAZ Parking. LAZ will get paid $764,920 annually to manage the two parking garages at the Raising Cane’s River Center, the basement parking underneath City Hall and its surface parking lots. The contract is for three years.

Ingolf Partenheimer, chief traffic engineer, said the Metro Council will soon vote on a contract to buy parking meters for the 845 spaces downtown. The meters will be able to accept credit and debit cards, along with coins.The apparent low bid came in below $1 million for the equipment. The next step is to do a request for proposals for a company to handle maintenance and collections from the meters, and install software, including an app that will allow people to use their smartphone to put more time on a meter without having to go outside.

Also at the DDD meeting, Stephen Waguespack, the president and chief executive officer of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said the organization will begin renovating its downtown headquarters in September. The work is expected to take four to six months. LABI announced two years ago it was moving into a building at 500 Main St. The state’s leading business lobby has temporarily been based out of the Chase South Tower. It's been waiting for Stantec, the engineering firm that occupies the Makin Street building, to move into an office building in The Water Campus.

Most of the interior walls will be torn down to make room for an interactive conference center and collaborative space. “Our goal is when businesses around the state come to Baton Rouge, they will set up camp here and feed off the energy,” he said. 

Lisa Nice, an architect and partner with Post Architects, said the Metro Council is set to vote Wednesday on accepting the low bid to improve the Raising Cane’s River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts. Buquet and LeBlanc Inc. bid $15.8 million for the work, which will involve adding box seats, VIP seating and two elevators to the theater. The lobby also will be expanded to just under 7,000 square feet, a move that will more than triple its size.

Gabe Vicknair, assistant executive director of the DDD, said the annual downtown toolkit has been released. The guide keeps track of the growth and development in downtown.  Vicknair noted the real property value of residences and businesses in the downtown area has gone up from $722.2 million in 2017 to $811.6 million in 2018 because of new upscale developments coming to the area. “Overall the downtown economy is still strong,” he said. “We’re pretty much steady in all areas.” The toolkit can be found at downtownbatonrouge.org

Matt Vondenstein, formerly of Driftwood Cask & Barrell, told the DDD about the live music venue he and Brian Ott are planning to open. The Basin Music Hall is set to open Aug. 30 at 336 Third St., in the space that had recently been home for the nightclub 1913. The Basin Music Hall will have room for 650 to 700 people and hopes to attract national acts that have a following but aren’t big enough to play in the River Center. The popular country music band Parish County Line will open the music hall.

Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.