It has never made sense to me that a state flagship research institution is separated from its state capital downtown by a chunk of rundown poverty. What drives the Louisiana brain drain is the lack of high education urban-centric jobs and the community that young professionals create. There’s a movement nation wide to move towards more walking neighborhoods, more mass transit, less suburban McMansions, and more urban dwellings with supportive neighborhood infrastructure.
While I understand that Catfish Town, South Baton Rouge, the old black Masonic temple, etc. served as the hub of post-slavery culture during the 20’s and 30’s, the area needs to be redeveloped. The area is in horrible shape, and the crime rate is horrible. There was a broad daylight murder over an iPhone only 7 blocks from where I live in the area. There’s empty lots and houses beyond saving. Further, the public schools in the area render the area completely unattractive to young homeowners who can’t afford to send their kids to the private schools of Baton Rouge.
It’s the one area that prevents downtown, Beauregard, Spanish Town, Capital Heights, Ogden Park, Garden District, Hundred Oaks, Southdowns, LSU/Lakeshore, etc. from being a cohesive middle class/urban area with reasonably low crime and a solid tax base. Granted, there are problematic hot spots in a number of the other neighborhoods, but the reinvigoration of the older parts of the city would do wonders for Baton Rouge.
While I have mixed feelings about gentrification and displacing the poor only means they are being displaced and not actually being helped, the economic health of the entire city would change. I believe that’s enough of a change to where it would impact the poor in the community especially if the tax base improved enough to where public school quality improves enough to where people will stop sending so many of their children to private school and depriving the city of other economic investment (the millions upon millions spent on private education in Baton Rouge could be spent on other things… imagine that).