BR North Economic Development District talks plans for new tax dollars

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Developer Richard Preis started building in north Baton Rouge 10 years ago. His Howell Place Development near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport is now home to hotels, a medical center, bank and more. With more than 200 total acres, there's also plenty of room to grow. It's a successful venture that was hard fought.

One of the developers of the first hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, said no one believed the hotel would succeed. He said they had to go to Arkansas to find investors. However, future developments should have an easier path.

"The north end of the parish is where the growth is going to come in my opinion over the next 10 years," said Preis.

In February, hotel guests in north Baton Rouge will see a 2 percent tax increase. Voters passed the tax in December and it's expected to generate more than $260,000 yearly.

The fledgling Baton Rouge North Economic Development District plans to use that money to pay for marketing and education to show other developers the incentives in the area. It can also be used to pay for studies which often lay the ground work for new projects.

"North Baton Rouge has the most available land," said interim Development District Director Rinaldi Jacobs. "North Baton Rouge has the most incentives of Baton Rouge. Right now, we have a great work force. We have great opportunities here."

The Development District is made up of community leaders, business owners, and developers in north Baton Rouge, including Preis. It was formed by state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge. Their goal is to bring more economic growth to the area that needs it. Residents here live in a food desert without easy access to grocery stores. It's also missing entertainment like sit down restaurants or a movie theater, said the District's Board Chairman Ron Smith. 

Smith added the tax revenue will help them succeed where other groups have failed. Just the fact that the tax passed, said Smith, shows that the residents are ready for change.

"We're actually seeing excitement in the air and that's great when you're doing development," said Smith.

The Baton Rouge North Economic Development District is also looking for a permanent executive director. Jacobs expects the board to start accepting applications soon, with a final decision coming after the New Year.

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