BATON ROUGE, La — LSU and Southern University architecture students enrolled in the 4000-level service-learning studio are set to present designs for a market and café project at this year’s White Light Night in Mid City Baton Rouge.
The studio works with the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance each year to develop projects and identify clients such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This year, the studio established a similar partnership with the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority that has been instrumental in the project, as well.
In October, students hosted Mid City Speaks, a community engagement event designed to give a voice to residents and invite public participation in the project. The event was hosted on the project site at 1730 North Boulevard, a corner lot owned by St. Vincent de Paul that once housed a small grocery store that served the area.
Local residents, church members, and other community stakeholders enjoyed food, music and an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns about where they live. Students posed questions like “Where do you currently buy groceries?” and “What is your primary means of transportation?” When asked what Mid City needs, many residents mentioned things like more lighting, a safe place for children and families to play outside and a stronger sense of community.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul hopes to establish the market and café as a workforce development opportunity for homeless persons. Located less than a mile from the largest homeless services campus in the city, the facility would offer a variety of classes, programs and on-the-job training in the food-service and grocery industries, as well as provide more food options for Mid City residents.
The site is also located in a relatively low-income neighborhood with limited access to public transportation, which can make it difficult for a small family to do something as simple as picking up a few days’ worth of groceries. St. Vincent de Paul sees a critical need for programs like this to fill a gap in the services they currently provide to the homeless while also fulfilling a need for the immediate neighborhood.
For the last six weeks, the students have been working on the proposals in small groups. They recently shared progress with community partners and residents in the activity center at the New Sunlight Baptist Church, located immediately south of the project site. Reverend Dale Flowers and Assistant Minister Roy Simms, along with partners from the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance and St. Vincent de Paul, offered valuable insight and feedback on the work thus far.
The students will share the projects with residents, local businesses and the general public again on White Light Night, an art hop hosted by the Mid City Merchants’ Association on Friday, Nov. 22, from 6-10 p.m. The work will be displayed at Letterman’s Blue Print and Supply at 4627 Government Street.
The studio invites the Baton Rouge community to see the work and share thoughts and feedback. The students will continue to work on the proposals, considering the feedback and insight gained from White Light Night.
This year, Letterman’s is sponsoring a competition for the studio and hosting the public presentation. The final proposals will be judged at the end of the fall semester and will be available to the public on the studio website at midcitystudio.org. Winning proposals will be displayed on Letterman’s billboards along Government Street during the spring 2014. The designs will be turned over to St. Vincent de Paul and the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance to help raise money and promote the project.