Bocage Cultural District eyes expansion of tax-break zone

The Bocage Cultural District, one of five districts in Baton Rouge aimed at fostering the local art scene through tax breaks, is eyeing an expansion.

Councilman Matt Watson will introduce a measure at Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting, requesting to expand the district—which currently encompasses an area along Jefferson Highway and Lobdell Avenue in Bocage—to include a stretch of Jefferson Highway to Brentwood Drive near Interstate 12.

Mark Biletnikoff, who owns N the Art Space and who spearheads the cultural district, says he’s been working on an expansion of the district for a year or two, with the hope of including more art galleries and growing the art scene in the neighborhood. Galleries currently in the Bocage district include Ann Connelly Fine Art, N the Art Space and the Moreau-Reyes Gallery. Biletnikoff, who closed his Biletnikoff Gallery last year, quietly reopened earlier this year in the N the Art Space, a 14,000-square-foot studio and art education center, to showcase only his personal fine art.

The concept of an arts district was initially developed for downtown in an effort to grow the nascent art scene there. The move sparked complaints from gallery owners outside the CBD, leading to the creation of multiple districts.

The Bocage Cultural District was created in 2014 as the fifth such district in Baton Rouge, along with ones in Mid City, Old South Baton Rouge, Perkins Road and the Baton Rouge Arts and Entertainment Cultural District Downtown.

The designation, through a state law passed in 2007, allows for a sales tax break on sales of local, original artwork. It also offers income and corporate franchise tax credits for rehabilitation expenses of historic buildings.

Biletnikoff says the expansion will extend the historic tax breaks to several residential and commercial buildings, including one being considered for an art gallery. Biletnikoff also has plans for district-wide art events if the proposal is passed.

If the expansion is approved, the Healthcare Gallery, a unique health and wellness center that doubles as an art gallery, will also be a part of the district.

“We’ve worked with tons of local artists to give them a platform to showcase their work,” says owner Dr. Leone Elliott, who opened the gallery in 2014. “That tax savings will really help spur more growth in the art community.”

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