Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication to correct the spelling of Cindy Wonderful’s last name. Daily Report regrets the error.
Downtown Baton Rouge will be getting its first hostel within the next year, with the owners saying it will allow travelers to invest in the area and help unite the city through art.
Baton Rouge Hostel, to be housed in a soon-to-be-renovated Baptist church at North 19th Street and Spanish Town Road, will not only provide visitors a place to sleep but will also serve as an entertainment venue for art shows, poetry readings, music, yoga and other workshops.
Melanie Bennett, a Baton Rouge native and self-proclaimed “Jill-of-all-trades” who has been spearheading the hostel initiative for more than two years, is teaming with Cindy Wonderful, founder of the nonprofit Chez Fab Arts and Community Project, who purchased the church building in August for $20,000.
Bennett, inspired to open a hostel here while staying at the Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse in Lafayette, says she wants the venue to be a cultural touchstone for Baton Rouge. Stays in a hostel are typically longer than in a hotel, says Bennett, and the people who stay there try to experience the area as the locals do.
“Hostel-goers are different. They like to integrate into the historical and cultural aspects of a city,” she says.
Renovation costs are estimated to be at least $100,000, and the pair has set up a GoFundMe campaign, with the goal of raising $35,000. Bennett is also seeking private partners and grants to help fund construction.
Though the construction timeline depends on fundraising efforts, Wonderful says the hostel will tentatively open within 12 months.
The building is currently zoned for special purpose, giving Bennett and Wonderful leeway to customize construction to fit their needs, though they are working with the city to follow guidelines.
Initially, the hostel will have two dorm rooms with six bunk beds, offering 12 slots for travelers to stay.
The hostel was introduced at the Downtown Development District’s monthly commission meeting this morning as one of the 15 initiatives in downtown east that are catalyzing the redevelopment of that area, according to Davis Rhorer, executive director of the DDD.
“This will be a cool, cool complement to other initiatives going on in downtown,” Rhorer says