RDA looks to create plan for Mid City redevelopment

Former Entergy land being eyed for development

A national search is underway for a firm to map out the redevelopment of a 100-acre section of midcity surrounding the former Entergy site on Government Street.

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority said the predevelopment plan, which is being paid for with a $284,000 grant from the State Office of Community Development, will give potential developers of the site a road map for what the RDA wants to see in the area. The area is bordered by Government Street, North Boulevard, South 19th Street and Interstate 110.

Susannah Bing, the RDA’s director of finance and economic development, said the plan won’t be “so pie in the sky” but will have “some teeth behind it.”

“We know the type of developments we are interested in seeing in this area,” she said during an RDA Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday. “When a developer does come to us, we can say, ‘Here is a plan, here is the area, here are the rent rates you can expect to receive, these are the housing types we would like to see.’ ”

The idea of predevelopment plans could be copied and used across the parish for future redevelopment projects, Bing said.

The main predevelopment plan is budgeted at $190,000. The RDA will enter into side contracts with the city-parish Planning Commission to do a housing inventory analysis for the area, the Reinvestment Fund of Philadelphia to do a market value analysis and Leotta-Evers Consulting of Baton Rouge to develop a property evaluation tool.

Entergy donated the 6-acre site at 1509 Government St. late last year. The land has a variety of potential uses, including loft-style apartments, affordable housing, retail, warehouses and as a station for future passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Plans are to have green space on the site that will promote walking and biking. The RDA hopes it can be a catalyst for future redevelopment in midcity and downtown.

Walter Monsour, chief executive officer of RDA, said his office has already had “serious discussions” with three different developers, including one from Los Angeles, about the Entergy site.

“It’s a very inviting place,” he said, noting that there is the ability to convey historic tax credits and new market tax credits to help cover part of the redevelopment costs.

The RDA wants to select a firm to do the predevelopment plan at its August meeting. The work would begin Sept. 1 and should be completed by March, Bing said.

On July 17, the RDA is scheduled to award a contract for environmental cleanup of the 11 buildings on the Entergy site. The land on the site has gotten a clean bill of health from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, but the buildings need to have asbestos, mold and lead paint removed, said James Andermann, the RDA’s director of real estate. Workers from the Capital Area Computer Recycling Council, the city-parish Department of Public Works and inmates from Dixon Correctional Institute have been hauling off computers and equipment Entergy left behind.

Andermann said remediation work should start in mid-August and be completed at the end of the year. After that, the site will be ready for redevelopment. The cleanup will be paid for by a $200,000 grant from the DEQ.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.