City-parish officials plan to apply for a $30 million federal grant next month, in a push to improve a pocket of Baton Rouge with no grocery stores and growing blight.
“The ball is rolling,” said J. Daniels, Jr., the interim director of the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority., “We’re seeing all these different stakeholders continue their commitment to this community.”
The grant would go toward the long-awaited “Ardendale” project along Ardenwood Drive — near the East Fairfield, Smiley Heights and Melrose Ease neighborhoods. Between Choctaw Drive and Florida Boulevard, it would include 168 housing units, murals, community gardens and street lighting, as well as additions for a YWCA learning center and a charter elementary school. For adults, the development would host job fairs, a senior center and a Meals on Wheels program.
The proposal has support from community leaders like Pastor Leo Cyrus from the New Hope Baptist Church.
“Whatever difference we can make, we want to make that difference,” he said.
Cyrus praised the construction effort, saying the development would make use of land untouched, to help those around it.
“That should be something 25 miles outside of Baton Rouge, all that undeveloped land,” he said. “But it’s right here, in the middle of the neighborhood.”
City-parish leaders hope to hear back early next year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Daniels said even if they don’t receive the money, they’ll continue applying.