Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Downtown Plans that Included Outdoor Movies Dimmed
The biggest news for downtown in 2009 was the second failure of the roughly $900 million bond issue. While the tax package would fund a new jail, police station and measures to lessen traffic congestion, its most controversial element was the Alive project.
Alive was conceived as a themed attraction on the Mississippi River to be operated by the Audubon Institute and an economic engine for downtown and the entire city. But it quickly became emblematic among foes as speculative, superfluous and wasteful. An effort to split it off from the infrastructure improvements was unsuccessful.
Following some controversy about a dispute over who actually owned the land on which the park would be built, the measure failed this fall by a 2-to-1 margin.
Downtown supporters were disappointed, but could look toward the completion of the second phase of Plan Baton Rouge.
PLAN BATON ROUGE:В That program aims to focus the next stage of downtown's redevelopment on nurturing a newly created entertainment district, fostering arts and cultural development, attracting residential development and increasing park space. And there were a number of other developments that moved forward downtown.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO ACCESS:В Construction began in June on a four-lane road to pass under the railroad tracks and onto a vacant, 36-acre tract just north of Hollywood Casino. The $12.5 million project will provide unimpeded vehicle access to 80 acres along the Mississippi River and a mile of its riverfront.
The project was paid for by Pete Clements' River Park Development Corp. and Hollywood Casino owner Penn National Gaming. It is the first phase of Clements' planned mixed-use development just north of the casino. Plans remain on the books for a hotel, apartments, condominiums, office and retail space and an entertainment complex. The project was first announced in early 2007.
TOWN SQUARE: A team of consultants unveiled plans in May for the North Boulevard Town Square. The project, which will get under way early next year and be completed in early 2011, would add an extra acre of pedestrian space to the stretch between River Road and Fifth Street and anchor it with a multimedia tower that projects outdoor movies and sends a beam of light into the sky during public events.
The $4.1 million project, funded by the city-parish, will also include interactive water fountains, a sound system, wireless Internet access and LED lighting overhead and embedded in the ground.
The project would coincide with the opening of the new 19th Judicial District courthouse and follow the recent opening of II City Plaza nearby.
HOTELS AND CLUBS: Other new downtown developments have included the initial work on converting the former King Hotel to a Hotel Indigo; and on Third Street it was Lucy's Retired Surfers bar and grille and a sports bar called Punchers, the planned arrival of the upscale Lafayette bar The Office and an unnamed club with a rooftop terrace in the former Richoux's building.
RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS: Residential development continued to take its lumps in 2009. Smaller loft projects such as Oneleven at the Shaw Center for the Arts followed up on the opening of apartments at Kress at Third & Main, but major projects remained dormant, including Richard Preis's condo tower on Lafayette Street and the 70-unit brownstone-style development announced in 2007 by Commercial Properties.Preis tried to team up with David Slaughter to put a 74-unit complex in Spanish Town overlooking Arsenal Park. Pressure from the neighborhood and preservation groups, which opposed the size and appearance of the development and plans to take down seven homes, caused Slaughter to back out. reis was only the landowner in the deal, but got dragged into a scuffle when the cityвЂs Historic Preservation Commission cited him for effectively demolishing the houses by not taking care of them. The commission eventually backed down, and Preis said he still wants to develop the site. Chad Calder