Anyone who lived through Hurricane Katrina will remember what life was like in Baton Rouge for several chaotic months after the storm, when thousands of residents and businesses from New Orleans and surrounding parishes temporarily relocated to the area.
With coastal communities decimated by Ida and much of New Orleans expected to be without power for weeks, might Baton Rouge see that again?
“We haven’t seen it yet,” says Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp. “But we expect that situation could emerge.”
BRAC has been in regular contact with its counterparts in New Orleans, GNO Inc., and in the Houma/Thibodeaux area, SLEC, to see what businesses in those areas need and how Baton Rouge can help.
A lot depends on how quickly power can be restored.
Local real estate brokers say they’ve received a few calls about leasing commercial, warehouse and multifamily space, but nothing on the scale seen post-Katrina.
“So far, the requests have only been for emergency storage, yard space for heavy equipment and also rentals for apartments,” says Jonathan Walker of Maestri Murrell.
George Bonvillian of Elifin Realty predicts Baton Rouge will see more activity, as a growing number of people from hard-hit areas are able to access their properties to assess the damage and make plans for moving forward.
“It’s very much an evolving situation,” he says. “I think right now things are calm because everyone is still dealing with the immediate aftermath. But as people get back to their properties I think you’ll see people looking for at least temporary space.”
If and when that happens, Walker does not expect to see the kind of demand for office space experienced after Katrina largely because New Orleans didn’t experience any major flooding in the city and should be able to get back to work as soon as the power returns.
“As bad as this is, people see it ending,” Walker says. “Whereas, during Katrina, people feared it was over for New Orleans so they came up here thinking it might be permanent.”