The Old South Baton Rouge (OSBR) neighborhood, a historic but disinvested community between downtown Baton Rouge and Louisiana State University was once a place the capital city’s African-American community was proud to call home. This three square mile area of approximately 11,800 residents is still both culturally and historically rich, but suburban growth and increased mobility has led to a steady population decline over the past several decades, causing many residents to seek opportunities outside of OSBR. Blight and poverty now plague this once vibrant community. However, despite these current struggles, the legacy of the neighborhood is strong and many residents are committed to bringing their community back to prosperity.
The OSBR Strategic Plan identified strategies and implementation steps to generate reinvestment in the area. Following these recommendations, CPEX has begun several key revitalization programs within the community.
In 2005, CPEX hired RKG Associates and a team of consultants to create a Strategic Neighborhood Revitalization and Economic Development Plan. The Strategic Plan delineates and leverages HOPE VI investment, private sector investment, City Parish investment, ongoing downtown revitalization and strategies and implementation steps to generate reinvestment in the community.
Learn more about our planning efforts by downloading the following resources:
The Urban Design Overlay District (UDOD) ordinances for the Nicholson Drive corridor and North Gates area are an Implementation Action of the Old South Baton Rouge Neighborhood & Economic Revitalization Strategy. These two commercial corridors were chosen because they have received the most intense development pressure to date. The UDODs do not change the underlying zoning, but are intended to protect and enhance the traditional aesthetic character of Old South Baton Rouge community, as well as ensure that it continues to revitalize as a vibrant, walkable community. In February 2007, a Study Committee of professionals and stakeholders met to begin crafting the design guidelines found in the Urban Design Overlay Districts. Three more Committee meetings and one public presentation followed, and the Old South Baton Rouge Neighborhood Partnership Board officially approved the draft ordinances in September 2007 and the Metropolitan Council adopted the ordinances in November 2007.
Also based on the strategic plan, CPEX has rolled out several implementation programs aimed at revitalization, economic development, workforce training, and community strengthening.
Home Rehabilitation Grant Program
The Home Rehabilitation Grant Program assists in the repair and updating of existing owner-occupied homes within OSBR and Scotlandville. Now in its fourth round, the program seeks to preserve the quality of the OSBR neighborhood, expand the supply of safe, affordable housing and help homeowners carry out and maintain home improvements. The grant funds up to $5,000 in improvements to eligible low-income, elderly, homeowners in single-family homes. Eligible home improvements may include plumbing, electrical, windows, doors, roofing, interior & exterior painting, energy efficiency repairs, landscaping, and performing other improvements in a manner consistent with the applicable regulations, codes and ordinances and the design criteria outlined in the OSBR Pattern Book.
Commercial Façade Improvement Grant Program
The Commercial Façade Improvement Grant Program is a reimbursable, matching grant program as an incentive to owners of buildings and businesses to improve façades within any of the eight Old South Baton Rouge Project Development Areas. Eligible façade improvements may include removing old façade structures, installing new and replacement awnings, canopies and signs, landscaping, and performing other improvements in a manner consistent with the applicable regulations, codes and ordinances and the design criteria outlined in the Louisiana Speaks Pattern Book published in 2006. No Façade Improvement Grant may exceed 50% of the project cost. For more information on the Commercial Façade Improvement Grant Program, past awardees, or to download an application click here.
Computer Training Class
In October of 2009, CPEX, the Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council (CACRC) and the East Baton Rouge Parish Library developed a pilot computer training class for low-income individuals in Old South Baton Rouge to own a computer while learning basic computer hardware skills. The class quickly reached full capacity and nearly all the students have expressed a desire to further their technological education and career opportunities through the knowledge gained in this class. Viewing this course as the foundation for further workforce development initiatives, CPEX is working to create future partnerships and programs that will promote education and job training in various fields. For more information on the Computer Training Class click here.
Small Business Training Program
In September 2010, CPEX initiated the Small Business Training Program to provide training, support and capital to a group of individual small businesses located within one of the eight prioritized Project Development Areas. The revitalization initiative will function as an engine for growth by supporting the expansion of existing businesses and creating new businesses, new employment opportunities, and new tax revenues reestablishing the connection between the stakeholders, the land and the financial resources.
Commercial Facade Improvement Plan
The Old South Baton Rouge (OSBR) planning process identified key strategic areas to focus on for successful revitalization. One of those areas was economic development.
The demographics of OSBR point to the area’s disinvestment over the past several decades. There are intriguing contrasts in income, education, and business size:
- The median household income level is $15,615
- Almost 30% of the adult population has not completed high school or obtained a GED
- Nearly 26% of the adult population has at least a bachelor’s degree
- There has been roughly a 30% decline in the number of businesses located in OSBR since the 1980’s
- 60% of the current 108 profiled businesses in OSBR have only 1-4 employees
Community Gardening Program
Small businesses serve as engines for growth—providing employment opportunities, generating tax revenues, and serving as anchors for the community. Bringing back the small businesses that once thrived in OSBR while stabilizing and expanding the existing businesses is key to the revitalization of the neighborhood.
In June of 2010, CPEX began its Community Gardens Initiative which includes gardening classes, community garden implementation and youth development. This initiative has been a collaborative effort between CPEX, LSU CUP, student organizations such as the South Garden Project, LSU AgCenter Extension, Baton Rouge Master Gardeners, the South Baton Rouge Civic Association, and local churches and schools.
The Community Gardens Initiative re-imagines a community’s vacant lots by planting a productive garden through the engagement of community groups and stakeholders. Transitioning vacant land back into productive use reduces the environmental issues associated with unmanaged vacant lots, such as blight, noxious toxins and illegal dumping, and the community development issues, such as unwanted uses, lowered property values and lack of physical investment.
People in low-wealth urban communities such as OSBR want, but don’t have access to, fresh produce. Gardens enhance the neighborhood by providing a dedicated space for cultivating vegetables and flowers where the community can come together to learn and work together. Community gardens provide residents of underserved communities the opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables, increasing access and affordability, and help teach children and adults about nutrition and healthy lifestyles.