Pilot program aims to clean up Baton Rouge’s high-traffic corridors

A group of government and business leaders is spearheading a “pilot program” to beautify the city, with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber hoping to bolster the region’s quality-of-place for attracting businesses.

Officials from the city-parish, Department of Transportation and Development, BRAC and Keep Baton Rouge Beautiful will next Saturday work to clean up the College Drive and Perkins Road corridor, fixing signs, replacing broken curbs and picking up trash, among other things. Early next year, the group will do the same thing to Plank Road and Evangeline Street.

The effort is part of BRAC’s increased focus on quality-of-place, part of the chamber’s strategic plan to lure a better workforce and attract more businesses.

“As businesses and professionals become more and more mobile it becomes ever more important for cities to attract them as places they want to spend time,” says Logan Anderson, BRAC’s director of policy and research. “A lot of cities and states across the country are engaging in this economic development through placemaking.”

While the effort will start as the targeted beautification of a couple high-trafficked corridors, the hope, Anderson says, is that it will set off a broader effort to better maintain existing infrastructure.

Already this year, BRAC has done major cleanup projects ahead of visits from major businesses looking to locate here, Anderson says. The corridor beautification is an extension of that, and will hopefully lead to a more systemic focus on the upkeep of public areas.

“We’re hoping frankly that we don’t have to target particular intersection projects forever,” he says. “Our goal is this sets the standard that we should expect from all public space. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that’s our goal.”

Rowdy Gaudet, assistant chief administrative officer, says the effort is also an extension of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s focus on beautification. He says a recently-launched program uses GIS, a digital program that stores geographical data, to find and fill potholes in the city.

Gaudet says he hopes private business owners will get involved in the process as well.

“We’re hoping to drum up some interest and bring other partners on,” he says.

—Sam Karlin

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