Development and rezoning proposals submitted to the Planning Commission are down roughly 60 cases compared to this time last year, and Planning Director Frank Duke says it has been years since the department has seen so little activity.
“We truly respond to the market,” says Duke. “When the economy is strong, we have lots and lots of applications. As the economy slows down, applications tend to lag behind.”
Last year at this time, roughly 240 cases had been considered by the Planning Commission, according to past agendas, compared to 180 this year.
Jonathan Walker, of Maestri Murrell, agrees the local market may be slowing, though he says it’s due to the lack of developable tracts of land “in Baton Rouge proper.” He’s noticed a definite slowdown in leasing offices, especially those over 5,000 square feet.
“Development as a whole is still moving at a safe, increasing pace,” he says. “Though there is a slight slowdown in new development because there’s a lack of areas available and building costs have gone up significantly in the last five years.”
Lynn Daigle of NAI Latter & Blum, says she is still seeing healthy activity in the retail sector, though acknowledges clients are paying attention to the possibility of a slowdown.
“People are being realistic about their expectations,” she says. “The good thing about Baton Rouge, is we stay relatively neutral. Our market can weather the ups and downs relatively well,
so this isn’t something I have people coming undone over.”
Dottie Tarleton, of Stirling Properties, is also seeing the appetite for new construction slowing but says she’s still signing leases. She’s also optimistic that the LNG industrial boom in Lake Charles will trickle east to Baton Rouge.
“The market’s changed,” Tarleton says. “You don’t see a lot of big new projects anymore.”