A $100,000 planning grant that will be used toward revitalizing the Plank Road corridor has been awarded to the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority by JPMorgan Chase. 

The RDA will issue a request for proposals for a comprehensive plan to redevelop the Plank Road area, which is described as the most blighted part of Baton Rouge. The RFPs are set to go out Wednesday, with the goal of selecting a firm by December to develop the plan, said Chris Tyson, executive director of the RDA. Tyson said it will take six to nine months to work on the plan. 

It will take about $250,000 to develop the comprehensive plan. The RDA has raised $190,000 from Chase and partners such as ExxonMobil, Tyson said. 

The Metro Council is set to vote Wednesday on a request by the RDA that will allow the agency to acquire 93 adjudicated properties in the corridor, which were seized for non-payment of property taxes, and transfer them into a land bank. The goal is to redevelop the land for commercial or residential use to fit in with plans to set up a $40 million to $50 million express bus route between LSU and north Baton Rouge.

While Tyson said running a high-speed bus through the most blighted section of the city won’t change things, the goal is to leverage the transit development to get quality affordable housing, neighborhood commercial development and resilient infrastructure.

“The centerpiece will be planning for the improvement of the neighborhood for the benefit of the businesses and residents living there now,” Tyson said. “This approach brings opportunity and resources to a historically dis-invested neighborhood in ways that benefit all of Baton Rouge.”

The plans for redeveloping Plank Road also will take advantage of a number of national opportunities, such as the Opportunity Zone program backed by President Donald Trump that is aimed at boosting long-term private investment in low-income areas by deferring and lowering federal taxes on capital gains.

While waiting for private investors to come up with permanent uses for the land such as infill residences and businesses, Tyson said there are low-cost steps the RDA can do to engage Plank Road residents, such as opening community gardens, pocket parks and “pop-up” installations on the properties in the land bank.

The grant is part of Chase’s $125 million Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods program.


Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.