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DDD requests cultural district expansion, opposes full-time employment proposal

The Downtown Development District has two requests for the Metro Council meeting Wednesday: one to grant an expansion of the downtown cultural district and the other to oppose a proposal that would require city-parish employees maintain full-time positions.

DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer is considered a “retire rehire” employee. Under city-parish policy, after retirement Rhorer was able to return to work for the development district for 29 hours a week while still collecting retirement, he said at this morning’s monthly DDD meeting. The setup, he added, is a “great benefit” to DDD due to its limited budget.

But an upcoming Metro Council proposal would put his position in jeopardy. The item, by Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, would enact a policy requiring city-parish employees to maintain full-time employment, unless they have specifically designated part-time positions.

“This directly affects DDD and downtown,” says Scott Hensgens, vice chairman of the DDD Commission. “My thought would be this commission express to the council its desire to have boards and commissions exempted.”

The full-time proposal will be taken up at Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting, along with a DDD proposal to expand the boundaries of the Downtown Cultural Products District to include areas in Spanish Town and Beauregard Town.

In other news, the DDD staff gave updates on several projects underway downtown, including the new library, which should complete construction around October. The upcoming Courtyard Marriott hotel is looking at a summer opening. Ben Blackwell, area manager of the new hotel, says he will be holding a job fair within the next 20 days and start recruiting for about 55 jobs.  

Downtown East has recently seen lighting improvements along North Boulevard near the overpass, and architect and developer Dyke Nelson says he’s working on creating a historic district so that properties in the area would have access to federal historic tax credits. The district, tentatively dubbed the Eddie Robinson Sr. Historic District, would aim to preserve the character of the Downtown East neighborhood.

“We want to make the process easier to bring the neighborhood up altogether,” Nelson said. “A rising tide floats all ships.”

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