Building Differently

Building Differently


Ardendale will blend services with a mix of housing
By Sara Bongiorni

Upcoming construction of a vital new roadway and groundbreaking on the first phase of $100 million in planned housing highlight the Ardendale project’s focus on transforming some of the poorest neighborhoods in Baton Rouge.

Ardendale is being developed on 200 acres of raw land north of Florida Boulevard. Catalyzing redevelopment is one goal of a master plan for the new community. It’s believed that successfully mixing uses on the site will revive the disinvested neighborhoods that surround it.

J. Daniels | Tim Mueller photo
J. Daniels | Tim Mueller photo

The half-mile roadway will connect the planned residential community on Ardendale’s west side to a workforce and education hub on Lobdell that includes Baton Rouge Community College’s McKay Automotive Technology Center and a collision repair training center, as well as a public career high school.

Sidewalks and bike lanes will run alongside the new connector. CATS will develop transit routes and stops along the publicly funded road, which will cost between $5 million and $6 million and take about one year to complete, according to the city-parish MovEBR project team.

Connectivity is central to Ardendale’s vision of transforming Melrose East and other disinvested neighborhoods into a community of high-quality, affordable homes, work and education opportunities, parks, art spaces, and quality-of-life amenities, from walking trails to public gardens to grocery stores.

The public-private partnership working to make that happen involves entities as varied as local arts organizations, city-parish agencies, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As with other elements of the 200-acre project, ease of access to work, wellness and education opportunities is the point of the new connector road.

“This road connects to opportunities that every family should have,” says J. Daniels, executive director of the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority. “You combat poverty with education. This road creates access to educational opportunities.”

View fullsizeArdendale map jpeg.jpg
The Housing Authority won a $29.5 million HUD Neighborhood Choice grant to support development of housing at Ardendale.

The initial phase of Ardendale’s mixed-income residential community also could break ground before the end of the year and will consist of a 170-unit mix of walk-up apartments and townhomes. Plans include a 1-acre community park, rain garden, technology plaza and bikeshare station.

The first sharply designed homes at Cypress at Ardendale could be ready for occupancy in 2023 after a 12-to-15 month build out, Daniels says. His agency will look to tax credits to help pay for the second phase of construction, an 80-unit senior-housing area.

The final phases of Cypress at Ardendale will be built over the next four years for a total of 435 apartments and townhomes. Residents of a dated public housing project a few blocks away will occupy subsidized units, but Cypress at Ardendale will be indistinguishable from market-rate properties, Daniels notes.

Additional plans for the 25-acre residential community include a walking trail through woodlands south of the housing area, playgrounds, a senior building and a community center. Melrose East and Capitol Middle schools on Paulson Street abut the community’s west side to make a quick pedestrian commute for children.

The public school system owns a 4-acre plot off Paulson where Daniels and others would love to see a “food forest” for hands-on learning and a garden that could improve access to fresh produce. “Health and wellness are key to a healthy community,” he says.

“What this private- public partnership is doing with this development is combating poverty. It’s one of the most exciting things Baton Rouge has seen in a long time.””
Connectivity with the surrounding community is a cohesive element of Ardendale’s design and extends into its residential community, too. The housing authority’s development team will build a smaller road inside the residential community that aligns with the larger new connector road that begins across the street on North Ardenwood.

Together, the new roadways will create a seamless, multi-modal connection from the schools on Paulson on the west to the workforce and education amenities to the east on Lobdell.

Attracting more private and public investment is also central to Ardendale’s vision, and the planned connector road is helping it do that. At its new intersection at North Ardenwood will be a YWCA Early Childhood and Women’s Center. It will offer Early Head Start, health services and daycare for children under age 3 within a quick walk to people who live in the community.

It’s too soon to know what additional investment lies ahead, but there are some ideas. Renderings show BRCC athletic fields near the career high school as well as a new charter school at the new intersection at North Ardenwood, but those are conceptual for now, says Chris Tyson, CEO of redevelopment agency Build Baton Rouge.

Ardendale’s partners continue to hammer out infrastructure improvements as an initiative without precedent in Baton Rouge. “What this private-public partnership is doing with this development is combating poverty,” Daniels says. “It’s one of the most exciting things Baton Rouge has seen in a long time.”

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