Design teams wanted to overhaul Baton Rouge Zoo, Greenwood Park

    Three-year-old Henry Carbo watches a passing otter during a visit with his family to the The Otter Pond which features a replicated fishing cabin with an underwater viewing area.

    BREC wants to hire two design teams, one to tackle the ambitious goal of completely overhauling the nearly 50-year-old Baton Rouge Zoo in Greenwood Park; the other, to redesign the remainder of the sprawling 600-acre park and turn it into an “exceptional, nationally renowned public park the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish will be proud of.”

    BREC issued separate RFPs for design teams one week ago, after nearly two months of carefully crafting the procurement documents, which run more than 300 pages each. Proposals are due by July 12.

    The issuance of the RFPs is the first major step forward after a tumultuous year for BREC, in which the administration unsuccessfully pushed to relocate the aging zoo out of its longtime north Baton Rouge home, while proposing to turn Greenwood Park into a regional attraction.

    Amidst public outcry over the potentially negative impact on north Baton Rouge, however, the administration agreed to rethink its position and keep the zoo at Greenwood while also reimagining the park.

    Both projects will be a tall order. The RFP for the zoo seeks a multidisciplinary design team that will design a new, state-of-the-art zoo with more “interactive exhibits, face-to-face encounters and increased public engagement opportunities.” The RFP stresses that extensive public input will be a required part of the planning process, and that the winning team must embrace a culture of “we will do it right, or we won’t do it.”

    The RFP notes consultants will be required to develop a strategic business plan for the zoo, as well as a long-term master plan that will also include an immediate $5 million phase of improvements to assist in reestablishing AZA Accreditation.

    The zoo lost its accreditation from the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums just days after the commission’s vote not to relocate the zoo.

    The RFP for Greenwood Park, meanwhile, calls for a three-phase overhaul of the park that includes a large, nature-based playground, recreation center, tournament athletic complex, horse trails, pedestrian and equestrian bridges, adventure areas, multi-use paths and a golf training facility.

    The RFP stresses the plan for Greenwood must also focus on “how the park could be catalytic in developing and attracting new businesses that can contribute to economic development in key ways.”

    Absent from the procurement documents is any discussion of cost. BREC does not have a specific budget for the two plans, much less a funding solution for the two projects.

    BREC Spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet says part of the RFPs is to propose ways to finance the projects.

    “We didn’t include any specific amounts or suggestions so as not to put any limits on any of the proposals,” she says.

    The RFPs, which both follow the same timeline, say the commission will narrow finalists to a short list of three by July 26. Winning teams will be notified Aug. 21, and BREC hopes to conclude contract negotiations by the end of September, with both plans completed by summer 2019.

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