Article by Kelly Connelly of Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
Owners of property in the proposed Baton Rouge Medical District in the Essen Lane, Perkins Road and Bluebonnet Boulevard areas are welcoming the new development concept, but are taking the proposal with a grain of salt, says Geordy Waters, a broker with Waters & Pettit who manages several homeowners associations in the area.
“They’re welcoming it, in their mind it’s going to improve the area, and they’re curious about how it will affect their property,” Waters says.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has been charged with spearheading the project and has hired Atlanta-based planning firm Perkins+Will, which has designed similar medical districts in other cities. On Tuesday evening, Perkins+Will representatives presented proposed traffic solutions for the area’s chronically congested arteries.
Solutions include several options, including completely new streets between Perkins Road and Interstate 10 as well as new routes for existing streets, which could be mixed and matched depending on cost and feasibility. A new road to be called Midway Boulevard could extend from an I-10 frontage road to Perkins. Most variations of the plan call for rerouting Picardy Avenue to extend to Mall of Louisiana Boulevard to more easily link with I-10. Kenilworth Parkway also could be extended to meet Dijon Drive, which could be extended to Bluebonnet Boulevard.
Waters says a street like Midway Boulevard is past due.
“The north-south corridor is the essential first step,” Waters says. “There’s a lot of bodies between the two hospitals, the Lake and the General, and if they can get to Perkins in any way” it would be beneficial, Waters says.
Plans don’t just suggest new paths for cars. In an effort to advance multiple modes of transportation, new trails bordering Wards Creek and Dawson Creek could connect nearby neighborhoods with bike and pedestrian-friendly corridors to hospitals. Perkins+Will also suggests adding more railroad underpasses to increase pedestrian, cyclist and vehicular safety, as well as reduce congestion caused by train stoppages.
Plans also call for the district to include new parks and mixed-use developments. That could improve property value, Waters says. But development inherently brings change, and not everyone is going to like it. Waters says some Kenilworth residents are worried about traffic in their neighborhood that could be brought by a Dijon Drive extension. Other area owners are worried their property will have to be sold.
“I’ve seen that in the pictures with proposed structures on top of things that are already here,” Waters says. “I don’t have an answer to that.”