Rosa Pugh, who has been living in Old South Baton Rouge for more than 50 years, said she was excited about the prospect of a “senior village” community within the borders of her neighborhood.
“I think it’s a great idea because some seniors don’t live in nice places and something like this sounds like it could be really nice,” Pugh, 75, said Tuesday afternoon at the Dr. Leo Butler Community Center on East Washington Street.
The idea behind a proposed “senior village” is to create a neighborhood within Old South Baton Rouge that is safe, convenient and a “one-stop” community that can meet the needs of area seniors, said District 10 Metro Council member Tara Wicker.
The proposed neighborhood would be generally bounded by East Washington Street, McKinley Street, Thomas Delpit Drive and City Park, Wicker said, and it could include housing, health and human services, space for social and cultural activities, community service events and educational opportunities.
“This senior village will be a crime free zone. No prostitution. No drugs. No fighting. There should be stiffer penalties for people who break the law in the senior village,” Wicker said.
Pugh and 77-year-old Leola Guidry, who has spent almost 60 years in Old South Baton Rouge, said they were happy to hear input from other seniors about the importance of security and safety in the proposed senior village.
“I used to be able to walk in my neighborhood. It’s not safe anymore. I’d love to be able to walk,” Guidry said.
Wicker invited architect and planner Deron Brown, of St. Martin Brown and Associates, and Baton Rouge developers Breck Kean and Helena Cunningham to talk about the different possibilities with housing and amenities.
Kean said lighting, gates and cameras could be elements of the community that can provide security.
Kean also said there is money available from the state and federal government programs, such as the use of tax credits from the Louisiana Housing Corporation, to create affordable housing for seniors.
“Senior housing is critical to revitalization,” Kean said.
Kean said his company, Prestwick Development, has created big, multi-unit housing as well single cottage homes, which a few seniors in the audience expressed a desire to see in the proposed neighborhood.
Cunningham said there is a lot of competition for government money for affordable housing projects. She also said the state would rather award affordable housing dollars for families and less so for the elderly.
“That’s why you have to get involved,” Cunningham told the seniors promoting affordable senior housing advocacy.
After the meeting, Wicker said seniors are creating a blueprint neighborhood that lets aligning developers know exactly what the community wants and needs.