Build Baton Rouge expects Plank Rd improvements to begin in new year

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Some changes could finally be coming to north Baton Rouge in the new year. Build Baton Rouge President and CEO Chris Tyson gave an update on projects slowly getting up and running after the pandemic.

Build Baton Rouge is mainly focused on re-developing areas of the city that have a lot of blighted properties and needs. 

The Plank Road Master Plan has been laid out for two years now. Millions of dollars in grants have already been awarded to make it a reality and soon people will be able to see it in action. 

The first project along Plank Road is at Erie Street, where there’ll be a new park as well as a mixed-use facility at Calumet Street. That project is currently in the bidding process to find who will build the early child care facility, affordable housing, and the newest office for Build Baton Rouge.

The pandemic has caused construction prices to skyrocket and slow down the planning for the master plan.

“After having received, you know, the inflation or experience the inflation in construction pricing earlier this year our hope is to close on the financing before the end of the year and hopefully break ground in the first quarter of 2022,” Tyson said.

There are also design plans in the works for a bus system to better connect north and south Baton Rouge which has already gotten $15 million from the federal government for the project.

“That $15-million of federal grants is leveraging another $35-million for an over $50-million dollar investment in the infrastructure of this city,” Tyson said. “A lot of it is happening on Plank Road where we know we have dilapidated infrastructure…blight.”

A big challenge for the city are the property laws in Louisiana. There are many layers to finding out who owns a blighted or abandoned property and getting the deed. It can take years to track down someone’s heir to have them deal with the property or sign it over. The agency hopes to educate people on it more and encourage legislation to change the laws. Tyson said the complicated laws affect not only Baton Rouge, but New Orleans, Lafayette, and Shreveport.

“There’s a lot more we have to do to clear up some of the legal red tape, if you will, to allow us to put these properties back into commerce,” Tyson said.

The city will also be giving Build Baton Rouge $10-million through the American Rescue Act at the next Metro Council meeting.

“There’s not a square inch of this city and this parish that is disposable. All of it, all of it is worthy,” Tyson said.

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