Baton Rouge's Downtown Development District celebrates 30 years

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When Davis Rhorer was hired to work for the Downtown Development District in 1987, he had a vision for a downtown Baton Rouge.

"In the beginning, Catfish Town was closed, old State Capitol was closed, the old Arsenal was closed, the old Governor's Mansion was closed, so we had a lot of things to do just to get them back open," said Rhorer.

But now, all of those buildings are open and many now function as tourist attractions. From restaurants and bars, to housing, grocery stores, and more than 11 acres of green space, downtown has now somewhat become its own city.

"My generation of people do not have a history with downtown Baton Rouge because there was nothing to go to. They did not have any bars or anything when I was at LSU, so it is a whole new generation of people that have taken ownership, first to have fun, and then to live," said Rhorer.

As the company begins to celebrate 30 years since downtown's revival, there are 12 ongoing projects, including a renovated library. One new project is the Desoto Park Nature Trails. It's 20 acres of land right on the Mississippi River next to the State Capitol that Rhorer says they want to put to good use. At this time, it's still a proposal and they're looking for gr ants to fund the project, but the group is hopeful it will soon become reality and one more thing to attract people to downtown.

The Crest at Galvez Plaza has been recognized internationally. Next year, another structure will be a part of downtown. "In October 2018, the rotary will gift to the city," said Rhorer.

For a man born and raised in Baton Rouge, he says he had many visions for a true downtown and in these 30 years, he says that vision has definitely become a reality with still more improvements to come. "It's not 'til I walk away from it, come back and say, 'Oh wow! We've done all of this?' We have 1,200 hotels, whereas in 2001, we had zero," said Rhorer.

The Downtown Development District is also making renovations to the port since Viking Cruises plans to stop in Baton Rouge starting in 2020.

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