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New walking paths to be added in downtown Baton Rouge along River Road

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BATON ROUGE - Improvements are coming to downtown: soon, it will be more walkable along River Road.

It's all about connectivity. The new planned walkways will create easier access to downtown and also make it safer for people to walk around. There are two areas in the works where the Downtown Development District is planning to expand and create sidewalks.

One will start at the Hilton and connect to the IBM building along River Road. The other will start at the Hollywood Casino and extend to the Riverview apartments.

There are currently no sidewalks on those two stretches, making it harder, and more dangerous, for people to walk or bike in those areas.

"From Hollywood Casino, we have a couple of apartments and residential complexes to our north that are downtown but they're sort of disconnected," said Whitney Hoffman Sayal, Executive Director of the DDD, "If you live there, you probably have to get in your car to come downtown to a restaurant.

"We want to share with them the experience of walkability that downtown offers people when they live here. That will connect them more easily to get on their bike, talk a walk to get to the river, to come downtown, for whatever they want to come downtown for."

The DDD received a $100,000 grant for the project. They're currently waiting for the construction documents. Activity should begin next year and be completed within three to six months.

Over on North Boulevard, an old bank building that's been vacant since the early 2000's will be transformed into luxury apartments called The Heron II.

It will be directly across the street from The Heron on Convention Street and will offer the same living experience with recreational areas, retail space and house up to 200 units.

"It makes sense, you want to work and be able to walk home. That's idea, avoid all the traffic, that kind of thing. So, we have another opportunity to do so after seeing all of our residential complexes with a high occupancy rate helps fill that demand," said Sayal, "They're in the design phase. A lot of our residential complexes are more than just residents. 440 on Third has Matherne's on the bottom floor. The Commerce building has The Vintage on the bottom floor. I think that's always a consideration in including those sorts of things in the building to make it more multi-use but, I think they're working out what that possibility could be."

The old bank building was recently sold for more than $5 million to Key Real Estate. The plan is to demolish the building which should start later this year.

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