Property owners in the Perkins Road overpass neighborhood have been on edge all day in anticipation of tonight’s public meeting—the first of three scheduled for this week—at which preliminary drawings will be unveiled for the planned widening of Interstate 10.
The prospect of widening the interstate has set off alarm bells for years among the homegrown retailers whose establishments line Perkins Road near the overpass. Those merchants were particularly worried today, after The Advocate reported that DOTD will need to expropriate four businesses and 17 homes to make the long-awaited widening project possible.
The article only identifies one business by name—the Overpass Merchant, a popular bar and restaurant at 2904 Perkins Road. The establishment’s owner, Nick Hufft, and property owner, Kevin Reilly Jr., did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
The article also mentioned a barber shop and convenience store that will be affected. Troy Menier, whose family has owned Troy’s Barber Shop in a historic building at the intersection of Perkins Road and Hollydale Avenue for nearly 50 years, was in something of a panic.
“I’m trying to find out what’s going on,” he says. “We’ve been trying to get in touch with the landlord. It’s a mess.”
Two sources familiar with the plan say Troy’s Barber Shop and its neighboring tenants in the vintage retail building—Bolton’s Pharmacy and NK Boutique—are not affected by DOTD’s plans, nor is the Cracker Barrel convenience store on Perkins Road across Hollydale. Rather, the businesses referred to in The Advocate story are elsewhere along the route of the proposed widening.
But DOTD Spokesman Rodney Mallet declines to identify which properties specifically will be affected by the project until all the property owners have been contacted.
“We are in the process of trying to contact the owners because we want to be the ones who tell them,” Mallet says. “And in some instances, it’s not like we’re going to have to take the whole business. We’re trying to talk to the folks to let them know we might need some of their property so we are in the process of trying to work all that out.”
Also impacted will be billboard owners, Mallet confirms, though he could not provide any details of which billboards might be affected and where they would relocate. Lamar President and CEO Sean Reilly referred comment to his nephew, Ross Reilly, general manager of the Baton Rouge office. Ross Reilly could not be reached in time for publication.
The confusion and speculation underscore the importance of this week’s public meetings, which are designed to generate input and answer questions. Whether concerns aired at the meetings will make a difference in how DOTD plans to go about widening I-10 isn’t exactly clear. Consultant Perry Franklin, whose firm is facilitating the meetings, says plans are more developed than they were in 2016, during an initial round of public meetings.
“But nothing has been set in stone,” he says.
Tonight’s meeting will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at McKinley Middle Magnet School. Additional meetings will be held at the same time on Wednesday at the Addis Community Center and on Thursday at the Baton Rouge Marriott.