Four months into its funding search, officials hoping to transform the former site of the Earl K. Long Hospital are in the middle of securing partnerships with three prospective anchor tenants.
In September, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority Acting CEO J. Wesley Daniels—who, along with State Sen. Regina Barrow, are working on the redevelopment initiative—told Daily Report they were beginning a funding search that would take approximately 120 days.
But the trio hasn’t met since then. Instead, the EBRPHA and Partners Southeast have taken the lead on the project, which Daniels estimates could cost anywhere from $6 million to $9 million. The housing authority is acting as the transaction facilitator, while Partners Southeast is working on the financing.
The partners—which Daniels declines to name, but notes represent institutions of “education, economic development and health and wellness”—would eventually anchor the 15-acre site on Airline Highway.
“We’re still in discussions with them right now,” he says. “They all have different funding and grant cycles, so we’re making sure we’re cued up with those.”
As envisioned, the development would include a health center, day care center, educational center, job training facility, restaurants and housing, among other features.
He’s also been talking with different financial institutions, figuring out the best ways to leverage the area’s recent Opportunity Zone designation to attract investors. The development should also lend itself to New Market Tax Credit opportunities, he says.
As for Partners Southeast getting a developer to sign onto the project as a joint venture partner?
“That’s a secondary priority,” Daniels says. “Our main priority is getting these partners who will represent the anchor. We want to remain committed to the spirit of what the community has expressed.”