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Downtown Revitalization: Baton Rouge

Metro Jacksonville visits the downtown of Louisiana's state capitol: Baton Rouge

Published February 11, 2013 in Learning From      9 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

feature

Tale of the Tape:

Baton Rouge City Population 2011: 230,139 (City); 808,242 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1817)

Jacksonville Pop. 2011: 827,908 (City); 1,360,251 (Metro-2011) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Baton Rouge (125,629)


City Land Area

Baton Rouge: 76.8 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles


Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2011)

Baton Rouge: +0.72%
Jacksonville: +1.09%


Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Baton Rouge: 594,309 (ranked 68 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)


Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Baton Rouge: 1,620.3 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile
 

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2011

Baton Rouge: +2,321
Jacksonville: +92,405
 

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Baton Rouge: Baton Rouge River Center (late 1970s) - 100,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet


Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Baton Rouge: N/A
Jacksonville: N/A


Tallest Building:

Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Capitol - 450 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2012 (City limits only):

Baton Rouge: Shaw Group(412)
Jacksonville: CSX (226), Winn-Dixie Stores (363), Fidelity National Information Services (425), Fidelity National Financial (472)


Urban infill obstacles:

Baton Rouge: Interstates 10 and 110 limit connectivity between downtown and adjacent urban core neighborhoods.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

 
Downtown Nightlife:

Baton Rouge:
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.


Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Baton Rouge: N/A
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com




About Baton Rouge



Quote
Baton Rouge (pron.: /ˌbtən ˈruːʒ/; French: Bton-Rouge [bɑtɔ̃ ʁuʒ] ( listen); Choctaw: Itta Homma; "red stick") is the capital of the U.S. state of Louisiana. Located in East Baton Rouge Parish, the city is the second largest in the state, and has a population of 229,553 people as of the 2010 census. The metropolitan area surrounding the city, known as Greater Baton Rouge, has a population of 802,484 people as of 2010.

Baton Rouge is a major industrial, petrochemical, medical, and research center of the American South. The Port of Baton Rouge is the ninth largest in the United States in terms of tonnage shipped, and is the farthest upstream Mississippi River port capable of handling Panamax ships.

The Baton Rouge area, also known as the "Capital Area", is located in the southeast portion of the state along the Mississippi River. The area owes its historical importance to its site upon Istrouma Bluff, the first bluff upriver from the Mississippi River Delta, which protects the city’s residents from flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In addition to this natural barrier, the city has built a levee system stretching from the bluff southward to protect the riverfront and low-lying agricultural areas.
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baton_Rouge,_Louisiana



Completed in 1929, the 450' tall Louisiana State Capitol is the tallest capitol building in the United States.  The tower was modeled after the Nebraska State Capitol Building, which was still under construction at the time.






The Old State Capitol, which dates back to 1847, still stands in downtown Baton Rouge. It houses the Museum of Political History.


Downtown Baton Rouge's second tallest building is One American Place.  Completed in 1974, the 24-floor structure stands at 308' tall.


The 86-year-old Heidelberg Hotel building is now the Hilton Capitol Center.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 in a successful attempt keep it from being demolished.  The building stood empty for 21 years until Hilton opened in 2006 as a part of a $60 million restoration.


A seven floor, $17 million new Hampton Inn & Suites is under construction at the intersection of Lafayette and Main Streets. With the recent openings of the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center and Hotel Indigo, Lafayette Street is transforming into an urban lodging corridor.


looking east down Convention Street with the State Office Building rising in the background.


The Shaw Center for the Arts is home to the LSU Museum of Art, LSU School of Art Gallery, the 325-seat Manship Theatre, classrooms, a rooftop sushi restaurant, and a park.  The 125,000 square foot cultural complex opened in 2005.




The Mississippi River Riverfront








The Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company Depot, also known as the Illinois Central Railroad Station, houses the Louisiana Art and Science Museum.





Baton Rouge River Center.




USS Kidd (DD-661) is a Fletcher-class destroyer that was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named after Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd.  Kidd died on the bridge of his flagship USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Kidd received eight battle stars for World War II service and four battle stars for Korean War service. Kidd arrived in Baton Rouge in 1982 to serve as a museum vessel.






Catfish Town was a $28 million festival marketplace downtown on the banks of the Mississippi that opened on July 4, 1984. It started out with a bang, attracting 250,000 people, but within 18 months, it was empty.  Today, the former marketplace is the atrium for the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino.






Baton Rouge City Hall


Quote
North Boulevard Town Square is a spectacular greenspace development that has transformed the disjointed area between North Boulevard and River Road into a lively downtown center where the city's cultural and civic attractions come together for all to enjoy. While this area was previously unusable with virtually no tree cover to protect visitors from the relentless Louisiana heat, it has now become the city's premier social gathering place — featuring more than an acre of open green space and innovative water features that help cool the landscape and a multitude of high-tech amenities to entertain visitors.
http://townsquarebr.org/about.asp






The 21-story JP Morgan Chase Tower is Baton Rouge's third tallest building standing at 277' in height.




Little Village Italian Restaurant at 447 Third Street.


Looking south on North 4th Street.

Images by Robert Mann







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9 Comments

thelakelander

February 11, 2013, 08:02:08 AM
We have at least one reader who does not like today's article.  Without revealing their identity, this was just emailed to my Metro Jacksonville account:

Quote
By what was covered I could not tell if this is some kind of revitalize  downtown or not.
I lived in Baton Rouge,La. for twenty years before being transferred to Jacksonville.
BR downtown is as empty or maybe more so of people other than bank and state workers
and that during business hours.
 
You people are a  bad joke trying to sell downtown Jax. Either you are being paid to or have
a vested financial interest in downtown Jacksonville.

Ock, these are your images.  What was your opinion of downtown Baton Rouge?

stephendare

February 11, 2013, 08:37:28 AM
People get funny ideas sometimes.

Apparently this guy thinks we are a chamber of commerce group for Baton Rouge or something.

The remark about people downtown was especially odd as there wasn't a single picture of a crowded street anywhere in the photo tour.

tufsu1

February 11, 2013, 09:31:27 AM
You noted the Shaw Group as Baton Rouge's lone Fortune 500 company.  Late last year, the company agreed to be acquired by CB&I.  Looks like soon, the city won't have a Fortune 500 company HQ.

fsujax

February 11, 2013, 09:43:52 AM
Ah another defunct Festival Marketplace from the 80s. I didnt know they had one.

simms3

February 11, 2013, 05:55:39 PM
People get funny ideas sometimes.

Apparently this guy thinks we are a chamber of commerce group for Baton Rouge or something.

The remark about people downtown was especially odd as there wasn't a single picture of a crowded street anywhere in the photo tour.

I think he actually thinks you guys work for the Jax Chamber, because his point is that this thread makes DT Jax look so incredible in comparison, when in reality both cities are so far down the tubes it doesn't even matter.  I think his point is a valid one...a look at "how dead this downtown is compared to ours" disguised as a "Learning From", whereby there isn't actually anything to learn from DT Baton Rouge except that Jax and BR have done almost all the same things and both DTs stink as a result (with Jax's looking better being that it anchors a much larger metro).

I just drove through BR a month ago...the most interesting thing to me was the *huge* oil refinery surrounding the northern end of DT...the refinery alone had a "skyline" 3x as large as the rest of BR.  The other interesting thing is the fact that nearly the entire metro population lives south of the city with one interstate route for commuting...looks like traffic becomes really bad there as essentially 500,000 people have one option north in the AM and one option south in the PM.

From Nola to BR is a bayou with elevated interstate and from BR to Lafayette is a bayou with elevated interstate.  Makes swamps in FL look like dry land!

thelakelander

February 11, 2013, 06:21:52 PM
He's definitely not from the Chamber.  Maybe Tea Party but not the Chamber.  Here's the rest of our email conversation:

original email:

Quote
By what was covered I could not tell if this is some kind of revitalize  downtown or not.
I lived in Baton Rouge,La. for twenty years before being transferred to Jacksonville.
BR downtown is as empty or maybe more so of people other than bank and state workers
and that during business hours.
 
You people are a  bad joke trying to sell downtown Jax. Either you are being paid to or have
a vested financial interest in downtown Jacksonville.

my response:

Quote
Good morning and thank you for your response. The article is simply a photo tour from a recent visit to Baton Rouge to illustrate what that particular city's downtown looks like.  Feel free to sign up to the site and provide readers with your opinion of Baton Rouge and your reasoning for why we should not "sell" downtown Jacksonville.

Have a nice day,


his reply:

Quote
Spending tax payers money on downtown Jacksonville is throwing good money after bad. Who would profit from such action? Certainly not the average citizen only those with vested interest. Some one is trying to sell a “pig in a poke”. The truth is many,many downtowns are history including Jacksonville.

my last response:

Quote
I think you may be somewhat off base by not taking the time to dig into the details of these discussions. We actually suggest spending tax dollars on things that provide taxpayers the highest Return Of Investment (ROI) for both downtown and the suburbs.  We're probably the most fiscally conservative group in town.  We realize that while downtown and this city has potential, the current system is broken, which is literally bankrupting our city.  We've actually suggested that the best thing the city can do for downtown is get out of it's way and allow the free market to take control.  By the same token, we also suggest that we stop subsidizing fiscally unsustainable development on the fringes of the city and set up a system where all development and lifestyles pay for themselves.

simms3

February 11, 2013, 06:27:09 PM
^^^ah, the rest of the email...LoL

thelakelander

February 11, 2013, 06:27:33 PM
I just drove through BR a month ago...the most interesting thing to me was the *huge* oil refinery surrounding the northern end of DT...the refinery alone had a "skyline" 3x as large as the rest of BR.  The other interesting thing is the fact that nearly the entire metro population lives south of the city with one interstate route for commuting...looks like traffic becomes really bad there as essentially 500,000 people have one option north in the AM and one option south in the PM.

From Nola to BR is a bayou with elevated interstate and from BR to Lafayette is a bayou with elevated interstate.  Makes swamps in FL look like dry land!

This brings back memories.  I remember going on a road trip to Texas as a little kid.  I thought that elevated section of I-10 would never end.   

Ocklawaha

February 11, 2013, 11:40:28 PM
Opinion of downtown Baton Rouge?  I think we have by far the prettier waterfront, Riverwalk, and Skyline. Jacksonville is also FAR nicer when one gets out of the core, i.e.: we don't have 5 miles of oil pipes, and tanks surrounding downtown. All of that being said there IS a lesson to be taken from Baton Rouge. This city is no doubt in the same shape as we are in many ways, but they have done one thing very well, PRESERVE HISTORIC BUILDING STOCK. I found the number of historic buildings in the core not only interesting, some were pretty mind blowing. Lots of the signature moss draped lawns, French balconies, colonial American, railroad Roman and even a few shotgun houses all mixed in with the art deco capital. One can stand in the 1929 era capital's shadow, and look to the one side and see the Pentagon Barracks built in 1825, look another way and see ultra modern hotels and modern office buildings. I think what impressed me the most is in all of the many times I've been through the city I always wrote it off as a tacky and poorly maintained dump of a place. This trip I made the effort to seek out the spark that makes it come to life, and busy or not their downtown is spotless, beautiful and well worth the visit.

It should be noted that these photos were taken on a Sunday afternoon. They had about 3x the number of people around downtown on Sunday then we have... at least 40. LOL. What I didn't see was block after block of closed retail, whatever the traffic is on weekdays, there seemed to be a lot of organic shops, ice cream parlors and pubs.
 

Just as a side note, they too are flirting with rail transit, and the state itself toward a corridor passenger train service that will run from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.
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