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Downtown Development District officials are waiting on an opinion from the Parish Attorney’s office before selecting an interim executive director and beginning a search for someone to permanently lead the office.

Downtown Development District officials are waiting for an opinion from the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney’s office before selecting an interim executive director and beginning a search for someone to permanently lead the office.

Davis Rhorer, who was the only executive director in the DDD’s 34-year history, died in March from complications related to COVID-19.

Melanie Montanaro, chairwoman of the DDD Board of Commissioners, said Tuesday she should have more information about how to proceed with naming an executive director in time for the organization’s May 11 meeting.

In the meantime, Gabe Vicknair, the DDD’s assistant executive director, is handling the day-to-day operations of leading the office.

“He’s steadfastly working so downtown can remain on track,” Montanaro said. “His work is much appreciated.”

Tuesday’s DDD meeting was the first since Rhorer’s death on March 9. The meeting started off with a tribute video.

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“It all really seems unreal,” Vicknair said. But he is finding comfort in all of Rhorer’s achievements in improving downtown, such as bringing new businesses and residents to the area.

In other business, Karron Alford, director of marketing and technology for Visit Baton Rouge, said tourists are beginning to slowly return to downtown, now that COVID vaccines are becoming more available. While the data for March isn’t completely in yet, it looks like the occupancy rates for downtown hotels was about 65%. That compares to a 30% occupancy rate in February.

More and more events are coming back to downtown. Mississippi River cruises returned to the area in March after an absence of more than a year. American Cruise Lines and American Steamboat Co., the two companies that make stops in Baton Rouge, are slated to have about 100 dockings by the end of 2021. That’s down from the 145 dockings that were cancelled for 2020, but up slightly from the 98 dockings that happened in 2019.

“We expected a slow and steady start,” Alford said. Travel is expected to peak in July.

Along with tourists coming back, the free Live After Five concert series is set to return after being absent for 2020. The first concert will be held August 20 and the event will go on every Friday until November 5. The entire lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but Lauren Lambert-Tompkins, managing director of the Downtown Business Association said some of the performers will include Cowboy Mouth, Wayne Toups, Rebirth Brass Band and Chris Leblanc Big Band.

The DDD also got an update on new businesses that are moving into the neighborhood. Loadstar, a plant logistics company, now has an office at 803 Main St. And Social Coffee, which had been operating a pop-up shop in Chow Yum Phat, will open up a brick and mortar location at 278 North St. in the summer.


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.