A new LSU medical school, new boulevard and a center dedicated to treating obesity and diabetes are among the proposals for the planned Baton Rouge Health District.
“This is truly a health and treatment plan,” said Baton Rouge General Medical Center President and CEO Mark Slyter. “Not just treating the sick, but addressing the health of future generations.”
Slyter joined several other local health care executives and Mayor Kip Holden at a press conference this afternoon to unveil the district master plan.
FuturEBR, the parish comprehensive plan approved unanimously by the Metro Council in 2011, calls for a medical district that promotes collaboration among the health care providers and researchers on Essen Lane, Bluebonnet Boulevard and Perkins Road. Participants hope to alleviate traffic congestion, improve health care services and increase the economic impact of the corridor. Such districts already are in place in Houston, Memphis, Buffalo and many other cities.
The master plan unveiled today proposes:
- A “midway boulevard” between Bluebonnet and Essen, including a rail underpass, connected to Perkins and Interstate 10.
- A Dijon Drive extension behind Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center that would run along the interstate and connect with Bluebonnet.
- A Kenilworth Boulevard extension that would allow motorists to bypass Essen to drive to Bluebonnet or I-10.
- Rerouting Picardy Drive to connect with Mall of Louisiana Boulevard and provide direct access to I-10.
- Frontage roads on both sides of I-10, an extension of Summa Avenue to connect with the rerouted Picardy, and rail underpasses at Brittany Drive, O’Donovan Drive and the planned Midway Boulevard.
- A new branch of LSU’s New Orleans medical campus to help meet an anticipated shortage of physicians and provide curricula not offered at the New Orleans or Shreveport LSU schools. The LSU Board of Supervisors has not yet approved the concept. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation says it is underwriting a feasibility and economic impact study for the proposed school—at LSU’s request—that will identify funding sources. Consulting firm Tripp Umbach is expected to produce the report by next summer. BRAF’s John Spain says the school could allow for dual enrollment programs, so a student might pursue, for example, a medical degree and a J.D. from the LSU Law Center at the same time.
- A Diabetes and Obesity Center to conduct research and provide nutrition and exercise advice, clinical services, healthy meals, a demonstration kitchen to teach healthy cooking, and instructions for using recent medical technology.
- Street guidelines that promote walking, biking and mass transit. Bicycle and car share programs, an intradistrict shuttle and a multimodal transit center also are envisioned.
- A landscape plan connecting Burden Museum and Gardens with existing green spaces and new parks.
- Mixed-use zoning policies that allow for the consolidation of irregular land parcels to accommodate mixed-use developments.
The FuturEBR implementation team asked BRAF to take the lead on the health district project. The foundation held public input meetings and spent $700,000 hiring consultants to develop the plan.
“Everybody we asked to be a part of it said ‘yes,’” Spain says.
The Baton Rouge Health District is a nonprofit that will coordinate efforts by health care providers, government officials, higher education institutions and others to implement the plan. Health care sector representatives oversee the district and are in the process of hiring an executive director, BRAF says.
Participants want to address transportation and land use issues to better accommodate current activities and future growth, hopefully creating a better quality of life for people who live and work in the district. Planners also hope to create “destination health care” for the community and region.
Holden said $23 million has been secured, primarily local dollars with help from the state, for the Dijon extension. Design work has begun, and construction bids are expected to go out next year.
Beyond that, funding has not been identified for health district projects. Spain says it is possible that the medical district also will be made a taxing district to provide a funding stream.
While the district is located in the Essen/Bluebonnet corridor, officials stressed that major providers located outside of the district also will collaborate in the effort, and that the entire region would benefit.
“It is truly a comprehensive plan to elevate and accelerate the health and well-being of the people in the Baton Rouge area, and also make a strong business case for why we should do this,” said Woman’s Hospital CEO Teri Fontenot.
More details, including the full master plan, can be found at the Baton Rouge Health District website.