A food hub anchored by a grocery store, a civic space for community meetings and events, a pocket park and a building that will house Build Baton Rouge, a YWCA child care center and mixed-income housing are some of the things included in the master plan to redevelop Plank Road.
The plan will be released at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Valdry Center for Philanthropy at Southern University. It was developed after nearly a year of meetings with stakeholders and aims to revitalize a 4.3-mile section of Plank Road, stretching from 22nd Street to Harding Boulevard/Hooper Road.
“This is a broad, comprehensive effort aimed at creating an equitable development plan for the city’s most blighted and disinvested corridor,” said Chris Tyson, president and chief executive officer of Build Baton Rouge, the parish’s redevelopment authority.
A core component of the plan is the proposed bus rapid transit. The city-parish has committed $17 million in local funding for the express bus that would run from Plank and Airline Highway to LSU. The plan is to use the money to get $15 million in federal transit funds; Tyson said the city-parish hopes to get a decision on the match by the end of the year.
The bus rapid transit plan, which would cost between $40 million and $50 million to establish, is the anchor for establishing other segments of the comprehensive plan, such as economic, community and land development. Last year, the Metro Council approved plans for Build Baton Rouge to acquire 85 adjudicated properties in the Plank Road corridor that were seized for nonpayment of property taxes and put it in a land bank. The goal is to develop the properties for commercial or residential uses that work along with the transit development.
Immediately after the land was acquired, Build Baton Rouge started working with partners to develop the sites. Asakura Robinson, a New Orleans firm, was selected to help develop a master plan.
Officials with Asakura Robinson have said five big ideas about the future of Plank Road have come out of the meetings with the public and various stakeholders: Amplifying cultural history and neighborhood institutions; sustaining and growing commerce and access to jobs; protecting and growing community wealth; building streets and neighborhoods that connect people to opportunities; and strengthening the network of public spaces and ecological infrastructure.
“The community wants to ensure the cultural life; the black cultural features of Plank Road are celebrated and central to the plan,” Tyson said.
Policy proposals, such as money for façade improvements and a microlending program for businesses located along the Plank Road corridor also will be unveiled.
The next step after Tuesday's announcement is to continue to work on the developments and identify resources, partners and capital to make the plans a reality, Tyson said. A potential overlay district for Plank Road, which codifies the preferences that came up during development of the plan, may also go before the Planning Commission and Metro Council for approval. “This binds future developments to adhering to standards,” he said.
The goal is to turn the corridor into a national model for equitable, transit-oriented developments, Tyson said.
“There’s no part of our city that can’t be made better,” he said. “There’s no part of our city that isn’t deserving of the best of our efforts, resources, attention, innovative ideas, creativity and passion to solve problems.”