East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority Running Out of Funds

Will have to close down by Dec. 31, 2015 if no additional money found.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority, a public agency responsible for reviving blighted areas in Baton Rouge, is running out of money.

The organization, formed in 2007, is responsible for kicking off two high-profile projects in Ardendale — formerly called Smiley Heights — and the redevelopment of the old Entergy building on Government St.

But the agency has been running on fumes for more than a year and has no money left to take on additional blight projects.

Walter Monsour, executive director of the organization, told The Advocate the program will have exhausted all of its operational dollars and will have to shut down by Dec. 31, 2015, unless additional funding can be found.

Monsour said the Redevelopment Authority is vital to the future prosperity of the city.

"What we've done is tremendous, and what we can do is enormous," he said. "It helps reduce crime, it helps economic development and it boosts the economy of the parish."

But since its inception, the agency has been wobbling along on unreliable and nonrecurring funding sources. The plan all along, Monsour said, was to prove the agency's worth, then seek dedicated public funding from the city-parish coffers.

"Everything that we've seen, every bit of research we've been able to muster over the last several years, still indicates the same thing: You've got to have consistent public funding on which we can rely to operate and to be able to create projects," Monsour said.

He noted that most successful redevelopment agencies nationwide have city funding.

Before taking over as head of the RDA, Monsour served as the chief administrative officer to Mayor-President Kip Holden, who controls the city-parish's purse strings.

The two worked together to secure the seed funding for the agency years ago, and Monsour has been well-known as one of Holden's most well-respected advisers over the years.

But Holden says he's not planning on stepping in to save the RDA.

While Monsour said he always envisioned the agency eventually receiving steady public funding, Holden never committed recurring funds to the agency. He said the city-parish's budget is already stretched thin.

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