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Cortana Mall property where the mall used to be Thursday Sept. 2, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. Amazon has cleared the property for their new facility.

An infusion of sales tax revenue the construction of the $215 million Amazon fulfillment center is projected to generate for city-parish coffers will also fund the construction of a new community center in the lone Metro Council district that doesn't have one. 

Metro Councilman Cleve Dunn Jr.'s district will receive at least $500,000 toward establishing a community center somewhere within the Cortana Corridor Economic Development District the council recently created.

The community center's construction is among the tier of proposed projects outlined in the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement tied to the district's conception, which also includes the drafting of a master plan for the redevelopment of the economically challenged area. 

Economic development zone hopes to use Amazon windfall to help Florida Boulevard

"This is about creating a master plan for the corridor and working on infrastructure and beautification in the area," Dunn said. "District 6 is the only rural urban district that doesn't have a community center and these community centers serve residents by providing healthcare, social services and extra-curricular activities for underserved communities." 

Dunn said District 6 was left out of the round of past federal funding that bankrolled the construction of many community centers in other council districts because it didn't fit the demographic profile back then to receive grant funding. But over the years, the Florida Boulevard corridor disintegrated from years of disinvestment and white flight. 

"District 6 has unique needs like any of the other districts and a goal of mine was to work with the state and local partners, as well as the private sector, on things that would not only have an economic benefit but support the community as well," he said. 

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The new economic development district, which the council approved Aug. 25, is a five-year deal that will divert all monthly sales tax revenues generated in the district that exceeds the monthly baseline collection rate of $414,088 to support the redevelopment efforts in the area governed by a five-member board appointed by Dunn and the mayor-president. 

$200M Amazon fulfillment center at Cortana Mall to employ 1,000; here's estimated finish date

The special zone, encompassing an area stretching from North Foster Drive to just east of the former Cortana Mall and from South Choctaw Drive to Goodwood Boulevard, is essentially set up to capture the increased revenue that's expected following the construction of the Amazon center being built at the former Cortana Mall site.

"We knew Amazon was coming down the pipeline and saw this as a way to use the increase in sales tax revenue for a short period of time to do something great with that corridor," said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business development for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. "This master plan is the important thing for us. It's the best way to capture smart growth in the area and we want to make sure that happens along Florida Boulevard." 

Much like what happened with the Downtown Development District, the redirected sales tax revenues will be also be used to hire a national urban planning firm to build that master plan for the corridor. 

As for where the community center will be located, Dunn said no final plans have been set.

"We could acquire private property or look at some of the city-parish owned properties in the area," he said. "I'd like for us not to have to purchase land and do this through a partnership with another public entity that already has property ideal for this purpose." 


Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com 

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