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Planning commission OKs plans for Amazon-linked distribution center at Cortana Mall

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BATON ROUGE - Plans to demolish and replace the nearly-shuttered Cortana Mall with a distribution center of a developer with close ties to Amazon, have one more hurdle left to clear.

The East Baton Rouge Planning Commission on Monday approved plans for the 2.8 million square foot warehouse, proposed by developer Seefried Industrial Properties, Inc.

"You had a dying mall, and now it's going to be, hopefully, a thriving employment hub, which really helps to stabilize the area," Mathew Laborde of Elifin Realty said.

Elifin Realty represents the undeveloped property surrounding Cortana that sits outside of distribution center plans.

Laborde says not only will the project draw new interest to the area, but also provide a boost to those businesses already up and running near the once lively mall.

"It means more traffic. It means more lunchtime population, more people eating at the restaurants, more people shopping after work," Laborde said. "For people, for the land that's around there, it means a lot more interest."

Since news broke of plans to revitalize the mall site, and word surrounding Amazon spread, Laborde says he's received several offers on some of the 22 acres of undeveloped property that surround Cortana.

Even before the project reaches fruition, it's already garnered plenty of attention, and Laborde believes the area, recently accustomed to empty storefronts and closures, could soon see the opposite.

"I think you're going to see more service-oriented establishments," Laborde said. "So more restaurants for people to eat. More car washes, maybe a gas station. All to cater to the employees that will be at the facility."

The area, once considered past its prime, could soon be buzzing again should the Metro Council approve two rezoning requests. Laborde says the selection of the Cortana site, with large stores like Lowe's and Walmart anchoring the area, for a distribution center wasn't an accident.

"It sits at the intersection of some of the most heavily traveled thoroughfares in the market," Laborde said. "It's got the infrastructure in place that they look for already."

The Metro Council will hold a public hearing before voting on the two rezoning requests for the site at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.


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