Council members say they won’t donate more properties to RDA following Mid City project plan flap

In the wake of concern over plans unveiled earlier this week for the former Entergy site at 1509 Government St., several members of the Metro Council met Wednesday with Gwen Hamilton, the interim president and CEO of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority. While Council Member Tara Wicker describes the meeting as cordial, little was resolved over concerns of Wicker and other council members that the proposal does not include affordable housing.

“Basically, we agreed to disagree,” says Wicker, who was joined at the meeting by fellow council members Donna Collins-Lewis, Ronnie Edwards and C. Denise Marcelle.

Wicker says she and her fellow African-American council members, who represent low-income districts with large swaths of blighted property, were upset by the plans unveiled Monday night. Wicker says the lack of affordable housing for the Mid City project is symptomatic of an agency that has lost its focus—a concern she says she and fellow council members communicated to Hamilton.

What’s more, Wicker says the four council members will vote to deny giving the RDA any additional adjudicated properties for redevelopment, which is one of the functions of the agency. Over the past several years, the council has transferred more than 100 vacant lots to the RDA.

“We left the meeting with the understanding that we will not approve any transference of property or anything like that until we have some clear direction of the plans and focus of the RDA,” Wicker says. “We will need to have a better understanding of where things are and determine if it is beneficial to the community.”

Hamilton says that if and when the RDA seeks to transfer any additional properties from the council, the agency will first lay out a strategy “demonstrating how the community will benefit,” and that she is optimistic the council would support such a move. Hamilton also says she will begin meeting more regularly with council members and keep them abreast of what the agency is doing in their individual districts.

—Stephanie Riegel

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