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11 Ways to Improve Baton Rouge

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Photo by Mark Bienvenu

According to the 225 Magazine in May's edition....

“Let’s make Baton Rouge America’s next great city.” Mayor Kip Holden often uses this phrase at the end of his speeches, but what does it actually mean? Chances are it means different things to different people. Envisioning targets and strategies to make a city flourish into the brightest possible future requires a complex rubric, for sure. Just as certain, our city has many areas that need attention as well as positive sectors poised for growth.

Some of the ideas for the following ways to improve Baton Rouge came directly out of our Pop-up Think Tank. (Click here to read more.) Others evolved more organically over the course of several months (and in a few cases, years) of talking, complaining and dreaming.

It is our hope that this list is not a conclusion but a beginning—the start of new conversations, new projects and new innovations.

Most of all, we want to hear from you. Tell us which of these ideas you like and which you don’t. Tell us we’re crazy. Email your own suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll publish our favorite submissions in future issues. You can also see a video we made starring your fellow Baton Rouge citizens and their ideas for improving Baton Rouge by clicking


Build Baton Rouge’s brand on sports and fitness

For years, Baton Rouge has grappled with its identity. Say “New Orleans,” and it means Mardi Gras, seafood and jazz. Lafayette? A festival hub and the Cajun country gateway. Baton Rouge has yet to hone an identity that reflects even its strengths, much less any future goals. Ideas for brands have been tossed around from time to time. Blues music? Our friendly people? But the answer is right under our noses: Baton Rouge should build its brand on sports and fitness.

More of atricle...


Create a Boomerang Fund

Young people nationwide between ages 18 and 24 spend nearly 30% of their monthly income on debt repayment. That is double the percentage spent in 1992. It’s forced many to move in with their parents after college or accept the first job that comes along. What if Baton Rouge developed an innovative student loan repayment fund that attracted young talent to the community?


Piggyback on Bayou Country

Each year 75,000 music fans from across Louisiana, Texas and the Gulf Coast descend on Tiger Stadium for two days of boot-scootin’ boogie at Bayou Country Superfest. Why not keep those visitors in town longer and attract even greater numbers by leveraging Quint Davis’ Memorial Weekend music fest into a weeklong celebration of alternative country and folk, singer-songwriters of the South and indigenous Louisiana music?

Call it the Southern Routes Festival.

The key would be getting multiple venues like Manship Theatre, The Varsity, Chelsea’s Café, Spanish Moon and others to partner and coordinate with Visit Baton Rouge to brand Southern Routes as a citywide event with one wristband or pass for all shows, as does Austin’s South by Southwest festival


Ban Smoking in Bars


Find the apps for that


Make sixth grade amazing

Ah, middle school. No longer “little kids” but not yet teenagers, most middle-school students are, for the very first time, given options: band or art class? Choir or theatre? This crossroads makes sixth grade the best place to target young people hungry to discover themselves and their passions by providing increased one-on-one mentorship programs, after-school workshops, project-based entrepreneur days and student-specific apprenticeships.

According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, 25% of East Baton Rouge Parish’s public school students who were freshmen in 2006 dropped out before graduating.


Host artists-in-residence

Through public-private partnerships, fund a new community artist colony, gallery and co-working space that invites Baton Rougeans to have new experiences and conversations within the unique worlds created by a series of artists-in-residence.

This could be new construction or the renovation of an existing structure. Either way, Mid City makes a lot of sense.

*photo by Plus One Design


Remember the River

In the eyes of the entire parish, a singular focus on downtown development has been divisive at times. While a vital downtown is crucial, so is developing our riverfront—be it near downtown or elsewhere, like closer to LSU. A mixed-use riverfront gathering place is an idea those in the outlying bedroom communities are more likely to get behind.

Many U.S. cities situated on rivers have woven waterways into their very identity. Cincinnati is one. Chattanooga is another. Even Shreveport-Bossier City has made the riverfront part of its urban character. From a shipping perspective, the Mississippi River serves an important purpose. But when it comes to design, the river gets short shrift.

The Mississippi River presents interesting opportunities for both East and West Baton Rouge parishes. Affordable residential and retail, water taxis and more could spring up along the west bank of the river, not just in downtown Baton Rouge, but on various points between the Central Business District and the new L’Auberge Hotel & Casino to the south.

Extending a levee-top bike path from downtown Baton Rouge to New Orleans and renovating the old run-down City Dock area into a mixed-use development would connect us regionally and give Baton Rouge an iconic riverfront structure. Yes, the levee presents topographical challenges, but the Mighty Mississippi is a unique amenity that should not be overlooked.



Feed our food deserts

IDEA #10

Launch a citywide art project with a purpose

IDEA #11

Make ‘‘single-purpose’’ a dirty word

If anything deserves to raise the righteous indignation of Baton Rougeans, it is the term “single-purpose.” Come on. It’s 2012. Louisiana is 200 years old, and as the state capital, Baton Rouge has a lack of outdoor spaces and developments that work effectively as destinations. Wouldn’t it be nice if local developments stopped being single-purposed and were instead engineered as communal spaces able to create powerful and extended user experiences?

We need higher standards for what we find acceptable as development in our community. The majority of new construction in Baton Rouge is for a single purpose.

A parking lot goes up without commercial liner buildings. A courthouse is built near space designated for a new downtown square without first-floor retail facing that square. A new neighborhood is built without sidewalks or green space or multiple outlets to the existing street grid.

A new bike-centric park is built without the proper connectivity that would allow many area residents to actually arrive at the park by bicycle; consequently, a cyclist is struck and killed by an automobile trying to make his way to the park. Even our amenities lack broad focus. The University and City Park Lakes, arguably the city’s most popular recreational feature, don’t offer experiences rich in the kind of retail and ancillary attractions found in places like Lady Bird Johnson Lake—formerly Town Lake—in Austin.

Though greatly improved with tennis courts and a dog park, City Park needs more. It needs to be our community’s “Central Park,” with bike trails and walking paths that connect to those around the lakes, an amphitheatre and adjoining retail and condos. We need these things more than we need another nine holes of golf five minutes from Webb Park. Imagine students, families and runners relaxing inside a new café on the lakeshore with its covered deck jutting out over the water.

Most important, new developments should dovetail with existing assets. Any new construction between City Park and Acadian Thruway along Perkins should connect to the Perkins Road Overpass District through a network of well-lit pedestrian footpaths. A well-situated parking garage would invite residents to daytrip in this area from across Baton Rouge. This “mini-Magazine Street” is a budding, locally owned commercial area well integrated with nearby neighborhoods. Residents there have the unique ability to grocery shop, get a haircut, eat out, take a yoga class and buy clothes, coffee, art, flowers, prescription drugs, furniture, gifts and a cocktail, all without having to set foot in a car. This area needs to be protected, improved and used as a model for other pockets of the city.


The lakes at City Park could become community destinations if the golf course was turned into usable green space and restaurants and light retail were added.

Photo by Baton Rouge Parish

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I agree with most of it besides #1 and #4. I plan on sending in a detailed list of what I would like to happen.

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#12 Attract more residents downtown

#13. Attract more residents downtown

#14. Attract more residents downtown

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Totally agree with yalls post!! Crime & public schools are major hinderances in BR becoming America's Great next city as the Mayor has touted.

Would like to see the Commerce Bldg. on Third at Larel comeback with more talks of a possible mixed-use residential w/ retail on ground-floor.

Some 4 to 8 story residential projects could work well along the Seventh Street corridor.

Edited by richyb83

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