BRAC canvas trip: Greenville revitalization spread outward from city center 

Business Report

When your bathroom mirror is fogged up after taking a shower, waving a hair dryer across the entire surface does almost nothing to lift the condensation, but if you hold the hot air over one spot, slowly the entire mirror will clear up. 

That is the underlying principle Greenville leaders have used in redeveloping their city—concentrating on the city center so that development spreads outward, Hughes Development Corporation President Robert Hughes told attendees during today’s Baton Rouge Area Chamber Regional Canvas Benchmarking Workshop session on development.  

Nancy Whitworth, director of economic development for the city of Greenville, said they went block by block through downtown, beginning with a Hyatt hotel on Main Street that was redeveloped using tax increment financing. The process turned the downtown into such a picturesque place that Greenville now hosts more than 10 groups similar to BRAC’s annually, as other cities look to understand the city’s secret sauce. 

In addition to tax increment financing for new buildings, the city used public-private partnerships to leverage existing properties, said Bob Hughes, father of Robert Hughes and founder of Hughes Development. Another example was revitalization of historic Unity Park, where BMW and other area companies pitched millions in funding. 

The strategies that Hughes and Whitworth talked about are already in play in Baton Rouge with the goal of adding future development, said BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. 

“Electric Depot is a perfect example of that,” Knapp said. “Where you had a private donation made to the public.” 

And Electric Depot’s success has led to further development nearby, with local investor Cornelius Quarels planning to open a rooftop bar in a formerly blighted building across the street. 

Metro Council member Laurie Adams says the discussions in Greenville are encouraging for Baton Rouge. 

“I walked away so encouraged by the ability of this community to cast a unified vision and then bring all the partners and stakeholders in and get behind that vision,” Adams says.

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