Officials pushing for downtown living

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Downtown Baton Rouge has long been a place for work and play, but the Downtown Development District is pushing to make sure it's the place to live.

"Where you can walk to restaurants or walk to the many host of the exciting activities," said Davis Rhorer, DDD executive director. "Whether it's the Shaw Center, the River Center, and you saw the gallery openings, and that's what a lot of people are looking for in today's living environment."

Several construction projects are signs people are ready for that urban living environment. Rhorer said the construction on the new Hampton Inn hotel is right on schedule and the 438 Main Street apartment complex should wrap up construction by the end of the week. That complex will house just over 20 units and already has a waiting list.

Excitement is building for the biggest residential project downtown: The Commerce Building on Laurel Street.

"You've got young professionals. You've got mid career professionals. You've also got empty nesters that want to rediscover downtown living, and a project like this has a little bit of all of that," said architect Allen Eskew of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple design firm.

The New Orleans firm was chosen to head up the building's design.

"There's a lot of office space downtown. A lot of state workers, a lot of law firms, a lot of people that we feel like might want to live downtown and now you see a lot of the supporting elements," said the building's developer, Michael Lang.

Those elements to support downtown living are growing. The DDD is researching if possibility of a downtown grocery store.

Also, for the first time in 40 years, a pharmacy will open its doors in the area. Pharmacist TJ Woodard said he felt like the need was there and the time was right to start his own independent store downtown.

"I've been surprised by how much it's growing and just want to be a part of it," said Woodard.

The store, Prescriptions to Geaux, will be located on the 300 block of Third Street and should open after the New Year.

For Rhorer, all the elements are coming together to push downtown development into the next stages.

"You can see we're going by a master plan. We're implementing it. What an exciting time in Baton Rouge to see these young entrepreneurs step up to the plate and want to do something," said Rhorer.  

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