Redevelopment Authority adding employees, commissioners

The Advocate

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, which had its staff shrink down to two employees for the past few years, has added three workers with new support from the city-parish.

Chris Tyson, who took over as chief executive officer of the RDA at the start of the year, told members of the board of commissioners Thursday the new employees should all be in place by next week.

“We’re very pleased with the crop of candidates,” Tyson said.

The RDA has been in limbo since late 2014, lacking a stable source of long-term funding and facing dwindling funds. Former Mayor-President Kip Holden resisted requests from the agency to provide permanent funding. He said the city-parish had too many other obligations, like repairing bridges, covering the cost of anti-poverty programs and paying the pensions of police officers and firefighters. Holden did approve a total $300,000 in stipends for the agency in the 2016 and 2017 budgets to keep the organization running through 2017.

But things started to turn around for the organization. In late 2017, the parish Metro Council approved a measure giving the RDA administrative duties over several “pass-through” Community Development Block Grant funds. These funds had been administered by the Office of Community Development.

In exchange, the RDA gets 6 percent of the grant amounts to cover administrative costs, such as hiring the employees needed to be in charge of the programs.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome also set aside $500,000 for the RDA in the current budget.

The Redevelopment Authority was formed in 2007 to help revitalize blighted areas of Baton Rouge.

Along with adding employees, the RDA is set to move into a new office. Its lease in the Louisiana Companies building at 801 North Blvd. expires at the end of the month. Tyson said the organization will move into a first-floor space at 620 Florida St. in March.

The RDA Board welcomed two new commissioners: Brian Haymon, who was nominated by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and Ted Major, who was nominated by the mayor-president. Haymon replaces Van Mayhall Jr. and Major replaces James Llorens, both who stepped down after their terms expired at the end of the year.

The organization is working on two major redevelopment projects: the Electric Depot, a 6.1-acre mixed-use development at the old Entergy site at 1509 Government St., and Ardendale, a 200-acre tract northeast of Baton Rouge Community College near Florida Boulevard, which will eventually include 850 residences, retail space and a hotel. A Baton Rouge Community College automotive training center opened on the site in fall 2016, and the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s Career Academy is under construction.

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