Late last year, the city-parish redevelopment authority, Build Baton Rouge, unveiled its master plan for revitalizing a 4.3-mile stretch of the blighted north Baton Rouge corridor and there are a couple of reasons this plan promises to be more than shelf art.
For one, the plan is centered on the development of a new bus rapid transit line that will run down Plank Road and, eventually, connect to Nicholson Drive near LSU. The federal government has already awarded money to the city-parish to buy new buses and build out infrastructure for the project so this much-needed mass transit line will become a reality.
For another, Build Baton Rouge has been clearing title to 85 tax adjudicated properties the Metro Council gave it in 2018. With financing from the Capital Area Financing Authority, it also has been quietly acquiring adjacent properties, enabling it to amass large parcels.
In other words, it now owns developable tracts of vacant land and has the ability to negotiate with developers. This is a key piece of the redevelopment puzzle that has been missing in underserved neighborhoods until now. It’s the way redevelopment is done in other cities and it can happen here, too. It’s not rocket science; it’s a formula. Baton Rouge finally has the ingredients to make it work.
It’s good news, not just for north Baton Rouge but to the entire community. Recruiters and site selectors don’t just look for tax breaks. Increasingly, they look to cities that are developing mass transit lines and investing in proven redevelopment techniques to address blight.
Not to mention that a rising tide lifts all ships. In the months to come, look for Plank Road to start floating, at least a bit.