RDA claims 21 properties, allots funds to Smiley Heights

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority laid claim to 21 pieces of property at a sheriff’s sale last week, though the original mortgage holders still have three years to pay the taxes on them and reclaim the properties.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, RDA’s board approved a cooperative endeavor agreement to use $433,303 from a recent city-parish budget supplement for pre-development work at Smiley Heights, the midcity mixed-use development anchored by a charter high school and autoworker training facility.

The RDA purchased 21 tax certificates for $321,121 in a transaction that will become final in July. After holding the properties for three years, the RDA’s goal, as it has been with about 120 properties so far, is to sell them to third parties who will put them back into commerce, said James Andermann, the RDA’s real estate director.

Entities which have purchased the formerly adjudicated properties so far include Habitat for Humanity, the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, The Green Foundation and the National Housing and Community Development Organization.

Andermann said the end user is up to the discretion of the RDA and can be a private entity or a nonprofit.

While the RDA had originally targeted 50 properties, Andermann said some were redeemed by the note holders and others will be available at a second tax sale on Sept. 3.

While the RDA targeted properties in the five distressed areas it focuses on, Andermann said the 21 lots were scattered throughout the parish and weren’t clustered in any particular area.

RDA Vice President Mark Goodson said the work at Smiley Heights will include tree surveys, clearing and other preliminary work on 40 acres in the northeast quadrant of the 200-acre property north of Florida Boulevard.

That portion will be home to Baton Rouge Community College’s 250-student Center for Excellence in Auto Technology and the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s 300-student charter school.

Goodson said Steve Oubre’s Architects Southwest has begun the master plan for Smiley Heights. That firm also designed River Ranch in Lafayette.

The state, which kicked in $14 million of the $24 million auto training center, has a timetable of starting work on that portion of the project in August 2014, Goodson said.