Proposal to sell, close Capitol Park Welcome Center in Baton Rouge goes to lawmakers

A prime piece of real estate in downtown Baton Rouge could soon hit the market.

Lawmakers will consider next week a proposal by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to sell the Capital Park Welcome Center at 702 River Road and a parking lot across the street from the center, which would be closed following the sale.

“The welcome center is a great facility that just isn’t being utilized enough to justify the expense for taxpayers,” says Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols in a prepared statement. “Managing our finances and our properties responsibly means recognizing when a facility isn’t being used to its full potential. This sale will allow another organization to take advantage of the prime location while providing more value for downtown Baton Rouge.”

Nichols says the 4,242-square-foot welcome center—which includes a theater space, meeting space and a patio with room for up to 600 people—has been appraised at a value of $7.34 million. A parking garage across the street has been appraised at $4.05 million, she adds.

Both property sale proposals will go before the Legislature next week for approval. If approved, the state will have several options for how to move the process forward, including sheriff’s sale, sealed bids, or a real estate broker.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne says he agrees with the Jindal administration that selling the welcome center and parking garage is a good idea.

“It will spur more economic growth in downtown Baton Rouge while being fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ assets,” Dardenne says in a prepared statement. “The Louisiana Welcome Center inside the State Capitol remains open seven days a week, and I’ve long felt this is the most suitable place to direct tourists.”

The proposed sale comes as the Jindal administration and lawmakers look to plug an estimated $1.6 billion budget hole for the coming fiscal year that begins on July 1. Proceeds from state property sales are deposited into the general fund. A spokesperson in Nichols’ office says there are four employees who work at the Capitol Park Welcome Center, and that they’d be transferred to other locations if and when the center closes.

—Steve Sanoski

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