Downtown Baton Rouge is exploring ways to lure new residents

While downtown Baton Rouge has seen several new apartment projects built in recent years, much of the new development consists of high-end apartments that may be too expensive for many downtown workers.

Tax abatements are an option for spurring new downtown housing discussed in the Downtown Development District’s new strategic plan, which the DDD Commission approved this week.

Louisiana currently offers restoration tax abatements for properties in downtown, historic or economic development districts. Owners who renovate their properties can avoid paying higher property taxes for up to 10 years.

Other cities provide similar programs for new development, says Whitney Hoffman Sayal, the DDD’s executive director. Surveys indicate much of the downtown worker base would like to live downtown if there were more affordable options, she says.

The plan also indicates that the DDD doesn’t have the budget to do everything stakeholders would like, though Sayal says she would prefer to exhaust other funding options before even considering asking for a higher tax assessment. For example, a “clean and safe” program could be paid for through a public-private partnership.

Goals discussed in the strategic plan include:

• Launch a 501(c)3 organization to assist with fundraising.

• Update the DDD’s governance structure.

• Clarify the roles of the DDD and the Downtown Business Association.

• Hire a development project director.

• Enhance connections between downtown neighborhoods and between downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

• Increase the housing supply and develop a housing master plan.

• Develop a transportation master plan.

• Launch a “clean and safe” program by 2025.

• Partner with other stakeholders to dispel “myths about safety and crime” downtown.

• Improve lighting.

• Develop and implement a marketing strategy for downtown.

Read the strategic plan here.

This story originally appeared in a Sept. 12 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.