Funding search to transform former Earl K. Long site finally beginning
The future of the site formerly home to the Earl K. Long Hospital in north Baton Rouge could be decided over the next four months as officials from the city-parish, state Legislature and East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority scope out potential funding sources for the much-delayed redevelopment project.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, and acting housing authority director J. Wesley Daniels are eyeing several tax credits—such as the New Markets Tax Credit and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit—as well as possible public-private partnerships to transform the 15-acre site on Airline Highway into a mixed-use development.
They estimate the funding search will take 120 days, at which point they’ll regroup and focus on the next step: Getting a developer to sign onto the project, a process Broome describes as “challenging,” though she’s had regular discussions with one out-of-town developer.
“There is a lot of interest, but we haven’t formally gone out and solicited developers yet,” says Daniels, noting the vacant land and single-story building currently on the site were recently appraised at $1.6 million.
For now, the project is in the pre-development and feasibility stage, with no clear timeline for completion. It’s been that way since the hospital was demolished in 2013. In 2015, LSU students drew up two conceptual renderings for the space that Broome says are still being used as the models for what to do with the property.
Broome, who pushed for the site’s redevelopment while serving as a state senator, says she’s met with Barrow and Richard Murray, Daniels’ predecessor at EBRPHA, about three times a year over the past five years. Her first meeting involving Daniels, who assumed his role in August, happened last week.
“My optimism is refreshed, and I’m maintaining my commitment to make sure redevelopment takes place on that site,” she says. “That location is still an excellent place to revive a disinvested community.”