Imagine Plank Road establishes a vision for equitable transit oriented development

March 6, 2020   /   Project News

Imagine Plank Road establishes vision for transit-oriented development that responds to the needs of historically African-American neighborhoods in Baton Rouge and leverages new infrastructure to counter past injustices stemming from segregation.

Last November, a standing-room only crowd spilled out the auditorium door of Southeastern University’s Valdry Center to participate in the launch of Imagine Plank Road: Plan for Equitable Development. Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Chris Tyson, the President and CEO of Build Baton Rouge (BBR) unveiled the Plan to over one hundred residents, business owners, public officials, and engaged citizens, many of whom participated in the nearly year-long effort to create it. 

Imagine Plank Road establishes a new vision for high quality, transit-oriented development that responds to the needs of adjacent historically African-American neighborhoods and counters past injustices stemming from de facto segregation. It complements a separate City/Parish effort to launch Louisiana’s first bus rapid transit route, connecting North Baton Rouge via Plank Road to Downtown and South Baton Rouge. Just two days after Imagine Plank Road’s public release, the City/Parish announced it had received a federal $15 million Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant – the last piece of the $40 million project’s funding puzzle. The Plan aims to capitalize on this new infrastructure by reinvesting in resilient new public facilities, complete streets, and job and education opportunities.

Several months of intense engagement of residents, business-owners, property-owners, and other stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds informed the development of the Plan’s vision and priorities. Unlike other contracted planning and design projects, responsibility for community engagement was not outsourced; rather BBR staff served as the face of the project, drawing on established relationships with community members to communicate project happenings. Engagement methods included a visioning survey, several festive community events, community roundtables, mailings to Corridor businesses, and extensive use of BBR’s social media platforms utilizing the hashtag #imagineplankroad. In addition, BBR trained a team of trained community ambassadors – people who live and work in the Corridor – to spread the word of input opportunities through in-person engagement. 

Asakura Robinson’s team worked with Build Baton Rouge to develop the blueprint for catalytic reinvestment. The team synthesized stakeholder input to shape five Benchmarks for Equitable Development, These are:

  1. Strengthen Plank Road’s role as a place for cultural expression for Black communities in East Baton Rouge
  2. Improve the ability of North Baton Rouge residents to participate in commerce and the job market
  3. Protect and grow community wealth, especially as Plank Road sees economic investment from both public and private entities
  4. Connect more people to opportunities through enhanced transportation options
  5. Advance community health, safety and resilience

Projects, programs, and policies fulfill the intent of these five benchmarks for equitable development. Among those the Plan advances are:

  • Establishing a community land trust and pairing it with BBR’s land bank of 85 adjudicated properties to bring affordable homeownership opportunities to area residents.
  • Restoring blighted property and return vacant land and buildings to commerce. 
  • Establishing a Plank road Overlay District that ensures that new development contributes to the vision of a transit and pedestrian-oriented built environment that fosters a sense of place, reinforces neighborhood identities, and promotes an active street life.
  • Building a Food Hub providing business and job opportunities for local residents, housing, and fresh foods and services within easy access of rapid transit.
  • Building a Civic Center offering new space for local community institutions and programs within easy access of rapid transit.
  • Relocating the BBR office in a new, mixed-use development and YWCA childhood learning services center.
  • Using tax increment financing to support investments in small business development, home repair and small landlord repair programs
  • Creating cultural design guidelines for the public and private realms.  
  • Promoting the development of a pilot “Eco park” in the Corridor that incorporates community-based designs  representing the cultural and historical context of the surrounding communities
  • Creating a signature gateway to the Plank Road Corridor. 

We were pleased to partner with Studio Zewde, WHLC Architecture, Emergent Method, and  HNTB on this project.

We congratulate Build Baton Rouge, its many partners, and all of the community members who work every day toward the betterment of Plank Road and Baton Rouge. The full report and its summary are available to download from the Build Baton Rouge website. Hard copies are available for purchase at cost here

Progress Report: Moving Forward to Implementation January 8, 2020   /   Project News