Downtown Development DistrictA Passion for ProgressDowntown Events Coming Up...

Diversity of Development on Third Street

These days downtown Baton Rouge is much more than a "field of dreams." New retailers and developments along Third Street are bringing more residents downtown than ever before-fulfilling a long-term vision for the city's center that's been in the works for more than two decades.

Featuring many of the city's best restaurants, music venues, and bars, Third Street is already thriving with nightlife and entertainment options. But new investments in residential developments and essential services, such as a grocery store and a pharmacy, are helping to make downtown more livable. Click to view a map illustrating the dynamic tenant mix of Third Street.

"This is a game-changer," said Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District referring to the $22 million redevelopment of the Commerce Building on Third Street, which is expected to bring more than 100 new residents downtown.

After sitting vacant for three years, the eight-story 180,000-square-foot black building on the corner of Third and Laurel is getting a major facelift. And when it is complete, the Commerce Building will feature 92 residential loft-style apartments and 15,000 sq. ft of retail space on the ground floor and the rooftop.

"We'll have one and two bedroom apartments with different layouts and square footage options at several different price points," said Michael Lang, the project's development manager and partner.

"The goal is to have a variety of desirable spaces that are attractive and affordable for young professionals."

Developers are also hoping to bring two appealing commercial tenants to the building. Lang said the 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space on the rooftop, which features panoramic views of the Mississippi River, would be perfect for a design driven restaurant concept. Meanwhile, a grocery store is at the top of the "wish list" for the 7,500 sq. ft. ground floor space.

"We are pursuing a retailer that is service based to meet the growing needs of our tenants and the broader downtown community," Lang said. "Ideally we'd love a grocer that could offer daily lunch specials and a selection of essential grocery items."

Lang said, TJ Iarocci, who purchased the building for $1.3 million on behalf of a New Orleans-based group of private investors, had been looking for an investment opportunity in downtown Baton Rouge for a while.

"Lots of other things are already happening downtown," Lang said. "There are so many new restaurants, shops and lots of other smaller residential developments. All of that set the stage for this large-scale residential development. There's been a strong demand for some time; we've just been waiting for the right opportunity."

Lang said construction will begin later this year and the building is set to open in 2014. Potential retailers and residents interested in pre-leasing information should visit to sign up for email updates.

Making groceries

If the Commerce Building can snag a local grocer, it will be another welcome addition to the neighborhood. Amenities can currently be accessed from Capitol Grocery, Catfish Town Chevron, and Capital Corner Market, but with the much anticipated opening of the new Downtown Grocery on the corner of Third Street and Florida Boulevard in April, downtown living is becoming much more convenient and practical for residents.

Owners Michael Matroodnejad and Mutaz Abusada, who also own Summit Grocery in Denham Springs, are excited about their new downtown location.

"We think it is one of the fastest growing parts of Baton Rouge, and that's why we want to be down there," Matroodnejad said. "When we started considering plans to open our second location, we looked at Gonzales, Juban Road in Denham springs and Highland Road. Ultimately we decided to go downtown because we see so much potential and so much interest."

Indeed, there is significant interest. A survey conducted by the DDD last year of more than 1,000 people who live and work in the downtown area found overwhelming support for a neighborhood grocery.

Matroodnejad is hoping to tap into that strong demand by offering more than 2,000 products in the store including fresh baked goods and fruits and vegetables from local farmers' markets.

"This is not a convenience store," Matroodnejad stressed. "This is a grocery store. We'll have all the essentials, from canned goods, to toothbrushes, to wine and barbecue sauce. We'll have it all."

The Downtown Grocery will also feature a huge selection of Community Coffee, and Matroodnejad says they are working with lots of other Baton Rouge-based vendors to offer as many local products as possible.

Going local

The emphasis on offering local services and products has proven to be a successful business model for Lani Guilbeau with Fleur Du Jour, who reportedly had a record year in 2012. Conveniently located in the heart of the capital city in the historic Kress Building on Third Street, Fleur Du Jour is the exclusive florist for the downtown area.

As the owner and head floral designer, Guilbeau established the business in 2005 and moved downtown in 2009.

"Downtown offered a convenient and ideal meeting space for us and our clients," said Guilbeau, who lives in Zachary and estimates it takes less time for her to get home than across town. "We were doing well. Then last year, we moved into the Kress Building with a highly-visible store front, and that was a game changer for us."

In addition to fresh flowers and a full service bridal salon, Fleur Du Jour features a variety of gift items from local artists including hand-crafted pottery, jewelry, stationery and much more.

"We are filling the gift-giving niche in more ways than one-with traditional and non-traditional items, and a focus on keeping it local," Guilbeau said.

"Our customers really want local retail," Guilbeau continued. "They don't want to have to drive, and they would much rather spend their money with shops that are locally owned and operated."

Another local business that downtown residents are welcoming to the neighborhood is Prescriptions to Geaux. A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Friday, March 15th for the pharmacy welcoming them as the first downtown pharmacy in almost 40 years.

Located just two doors down from the Our Lady of the Lake walk-in clinic on Third Street, the full-service pharmacy will offer customers convenience and competitive prices.

"We'll deliver to any home or business downtown," says owner and licensed pharmacist T. J. Woodard. "Our goal is to make people's lives easier, so they can get what they need and go home after work."

Attracting young entrepreneurs

Woodward's decision to open a new downtown pharmacy four decades after the last one closed reflects a renewed commitment to downtown that's coming from a new, younger generation of leaders.

"I applaud these young entrepreneurs who are really stepping up to bring a variety of local businesses downtown," said Rhorer, referring to the driving forces behind the Commerce Building, the Downtown Grocery, Fleur Du Jour, and Prescriptions to Geaux, who are all under the age of 40.

"Their energy and entrepreneurial spirit are driving success and innovation along Third Street and throughout the heart of the city," Rhorer continued.

In total, there are more than two dozen startups and small businesses downtown that are owned and operated by young entrepreneurs. Two of the most recent additions include Red Six Media, an advertising agency that originated at LSU and is now moving to Third Street; and Springboard Baton Rouge, a collaborative workspace for local entrepreneurs that recently opened on the second floor of the Kress Building. Click here to view a list of downtown's young entrepreneurs.

This exciting spirit of youthful entrepreneurship is yet another reason why it is a great time to be downtown. The area is thriving day and night.

New restaurants and bars provide a vast array of entertainment options, while new hotels, retailers and service based businesses provide convenience and shopping opportunities. Come live, work and play with us.

To learn more about any of the properties or retail establishments featured in this article, please contact the DDD at (225) 389-5520 or visit our website


For a full listing of upcoming events, visit our website.

247 Florida St.  |  Baton Rouge, LA 70801  |  (225) 389-5520 Office (225) 389-5523 Fax  |  8:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F

PROFILE OPTIONS: Subscribe | Unsubscribe | Archives
If you are having trouble viewing this message, please click here.