Downtown’s new strategic plan will likely focus on safety and cleanliness

Downtown’s next strategic plan is likely to include a “clean and safe” program, Downtown Development District Executive Director Whitney Hoffman Sayal says.

Sayal addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club this week, several hours after the body of a Georgia man last seen downtown was found near Scenic Highway.

Similar programs in other cities’ downtowns provide enhanced security and cleaning services. Sayal says the DDD couldn’t fund the program within its own budget and would expect to seek other revenue sources, likely including a public-private partnership.

“The Central Business District is one of the safest places in the city,” she said when asked about Nathan Millard’s death. “I think that our clean-and-safe program will help.”

The DDD has a good relationship with Baton Rouge Police, Sayal says, adding that she would like to see a 24-hour presence. The program could include “safety ambassadors” with relationships with BRPD putting “eyes on the streets.”

Other topics Sayal touched on today include:

-The DDD has budgeted about $50,000 for the strategic plan, which includes about $42,000 for a consultant and leaves room for additional spending on marketing. Sayal expects to begin putting out surveys to inform the plan before the end of this month and most likely would present a plan to the DDD Commission in August.

-The DDD is working with the International Downtown Association to provide “cold hard data” about downtown’s value to the rest of the parish. While that report is not ready yet, Sayal notes that a vibrant downtown is important for attracting and retaining young professionals.

“Your heart has to be healthy for your extremities to work correctly,” she says, when asked about making the case for downtown’s importance to someone who lives in the Baton Rouge area but doesn’t have strong ties to downtown. “We’re all kind of in this together.”

This story originally appeared in a March 6 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.