One Year After Announcing the Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development, Build Baton Rouge Secures Project Funding from JPMorgan Chase

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For decades, Baton Rouge has been dubbed “a tale of two cities.” Pervasive blight and high crime rates in North Baton Rouge are often contrasted with the upscale retail and commercial development in South Baton Rouge. North Baton Rouge is predominately black and significantly impoverished. South Baton Rouge is predominately white and affluent. The quality of life differences between the North and South can be traced to systemic disinvestment, the city’s decades-long fight over school desegregation, and racial segregation. When Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome took office in January of 2017, she vowed to address the lack of development in North Baton Rouge through a well-resourced and coordinated approach. Part of that commitment meant increasing funding for comprehensive redevelopment.

In early 2018 Build Baton Rouge (new window) turned its focus to Plank Road, Baton Rouge’s most blighted and disinvested commercial corridor. The agency convened a diverse array of partners to begin planning for transit-oriented, equitable development. Co-City was approached to help with these efforts and engage the community to understand, develop, plan and implement complimentary projects that will contribute to the overall plan. The result was the Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development, released in
November 2019. The Plan articulated a community-led vision for equitable development built around various projects, including a bus rapid transit route (BRT) connecting North and South Baton Rouge. Because of these planning efforts, in November of 2019 Baton Rouge was awarded a $15 million federal grant for Louisiana’s first bus transit line which will run along the Plank Road corridor. In heralding the path-breaking BRT funding award,
Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broom said, “This major federal investment in Baton Rouge transit is the result of deliberate and thoughtful transit planning, our community’s strong desire for vital transportation linkages between our neighborhoods and a demonstration of our willingness to maximize federal funds to implement a transformational transportation project.”

Almost one year to the date of the Plan’s unveiling, Build Baton Rouge announces its receipt of a $5 million philanthropic investment from the JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities Challenge. The AdvancingCities award celebrates Build Baton Rouge’s collaborative approach to executing the Plan outcomes with local stakeholders such as Metromorphosis as well as national partners like TruFund Financial and Co-City Baton Rouge. The partners make up the Baton Rouge Collaborative and aim to:
● Develop a grocery-anchored mixed use development with over 40 affordable housing units on the new bus rapid transit line;
● Renovate a 3,500 sq. ft historic building into a Food Incubator that will provide commercial kitchen space, deliver fresh food and offer job training;
● Provide financial and technical support to 15 new and existing minority-owned businesses;
● Upgrade 15 building facades along the Corridor;
● Transform a 4,000 sq. ft vacant lot into a community pocket park; and
● Preserve housing affordability through the formation of a innovative Community Land Trust/Bank hybrid institution.

As part of this collaborative, Co-City Baton Rouge brings its approach to community-led, multistakeholder produced assets for Plank Road that develops and places the residents as stewards over these assets. We will work with these and other local partners to develop and implement a community governance structure that will ensure local ownership of these institutions for years to come. The CLT/B will be the hub of Co-City’s work in Baton Rouge, with the Myrtlelawn Ecopark (aka Community Pocket Park), Community Capacity and Leadership Development Program and Food Security Project being spokes. Over the next few weeks I will profile the work that has been done since the onset of the global pandemic, highlighting milestones and partnerships that will make our dreams a reality.

Christopher Tyson, Build Baton Rouge President and CEO, believes that the JPMorgan Chase partnership will help shift the tide of disinvestment and demonstrate that real, lasting progress is possible for North Baton Rouge. “Being one of the 2020 AdvancingCities grantees will not only bring national recognition to Baton Rouge, but this multi-year investment will catalyze significant economic activity along the Plank Road corridor that will benefit generations to come,” Tyson says. Build Baton Rouge is among eight recipients of this year’s award, chosen from 150 applications spanning 78 communities.

Meet The Collaborative
Build Baton Rouge is proud to partner with TruFund Financial, Metromorphosis, and Co-City Baton Rouge to implement the Plank Road masterplan through programs that will eliminate blight, grow small businesses, and preserve housing affordability in North Baton Rouge.

About JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities

AdvancingCities is a $500 million initiative that combines JPMorgan Chase’s lending capital, philanthropic capital, and expertise to make investments in cities. The program consists of two key features, the AdvancingCities Challenge and large-scale investments in cities.

The 2020 AdvancingCities Challenge leveraged lessons learned from six years of hosting the PRO Neighborhoods competition and the first year of the AdvancingCities Challenge, continuing to emphasize the importance of collaboration, strong leadership, and bold and innovative approaches to help ensure that access to capital and opportunity is more widely shared by diverse communities. This year’s combined challenge sourced solutions that embodied three key factors:

  • A powerful vision for the future shaped by deep community engagement and a shared understanding of goals and priorities to ensure alignment across partners;
  • Strong leadership and collaboration among a diverse set of actors with unique authority and resources to drive sustainable change; and
  • Innovative approaches that are data-driven and evidence-based and that move beyond “business as usual” to change the trajectory of communities that are currently being left behind.

The winning AdvancingCities Challenge initiatives will have access to a wide array of JPMorgan Chase resources, including data and research, employee expertise, and a global network.

To learn more about AdvancingCities visit (new window).