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Overpass area, Old South Baton Rouge properties eyed for demo as state plans I-10 widening

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BATON ROUGE – The trendy Perkins Road overpass area will be significantly impacted by the I-10 widening project a report released this week by DOTD showed.

An environmental assessment quietly revealed what has been widely speculated – 111 properties, including popular businesses, are eyed by the state highway department and are within the construction area. Of those properties, 33 of them are structures, and 17 are historic properties.

On the list is the Overpass Merchant, a bar and restaurant on Perkins Road in the shadow of the current I-10 bridge. DOTD listed the business as an “adversely affected historical” property and offered two options: A possible purchase and demolition or save the older, historical part of the building and remove a modern addition. The Overpass Merchant structure includes a patio and covered outdoor seating area.

The state said the business is under the expanded westbound lanes of the highway.

The assessment study also proposed purchasing Fresh Salon on Christian Street and demolish the building. Owner Ashley Quartararo says she's sad about the news but looking toward the future.

"The first time I walked in here, I knew it was something special," she said. "This is an investment. This is my retirement. If I'm going to lose it, I hope it's worth it."

Historic homes were listed as being possibly purchased for demolition along Honeysuckle, South Eugene, Rhododendron and various Old South Baton Rouge addresses abutting the highway on Braddock, Maximillian, East Blvd., Julia, E. Washington, Kentucky and Terrace.

Some of those historic properties could have the option to move the structure to a new property, or within the existing footprint. In the short-term, DOTD says it doesn't expect residents to move in the next 6-12 months but it will work with them to assist them in relocating.

"We've taken an extraordinary step to work with a non-profit organization and that's going to help facilitate relocating those facilities within the footprint on vacant lots," DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson said.

Most of the properties are slivers of land from various owners.

"For those residences and businesses that are not going to be impacted, you're going to have a much better footprint," Wilson said. "It may be enhanced parking. It may be bicycle lanes. It may be sidewalks, other things that you don't have today."

The state is still going through the environmental process and has not acquired any necessary property at this time. Once the environmental process is completed, it can then begin to acquire land. But the full list of properties won't be finalized until the environmental clearance is given. DOTD has been talking to residents and business owners throughout the construction footprint and says it's talking to many "willing sellers."

DOTD says it's already looked at property values, and soon after the environmental process is completed, it expects to make offers on amicable sales.

Meetings are scheduled over the next few weeks to discuss impacts with the community and property owners.

The widening project was welcoming news in 2018 as en effort to fight the gridlock that plagues the greater Baton Rouge area.

Construction is not expected to begin until sometime in 2020.  A new estimate on the total cost put the project at about $1.1 billion. 


Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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