Don't count out BR yet - 9/23/2011
Baton Rouge has grown tremendously in the last 30 years, and a lot of that growth has taken place South of the city along the I-10 and I-12 corridors in terms of residential and retail development. Retailers that would have snubbed it's nose at Baton Rouge, let alone the area years ago have settled here, mainly in the Mall of Louisiana and the Perkins Rowe area.
I spent a great part of my formative years between here and New Orleans. At one time, I despised Baton Rouge with a passion and dreaded coming here. Baton Rouge has always lived in the shadow of it's neighbor, New Orleans, but it is rapidly becoming a great place on it's own. When I visited BR about a year ago, I was beyond impressed at how the city has changed. To be quite frank, 10 years ago, I probably would have told you not to consider coming here.
Additionally, the downtown area is undergoing a massive re-birth. At one time, Downtown BR was the epicenter for shopping and entertainment, but back in the 1970s, stores began to close up shop for good or move to malls on the city's outskirts such as Bon Marche and Cortana. In time, the DT area was more or less deserted after five, save for a few bars here and there. There are a few musuems, the La. Arts and Science Center, The Shaw center, the State Capital and the Old State Capital. In addition, there are some casinos along the river near downtown. These have caused quite a bit of controversy prior to their establishment, but IMO, they at least help to bring people back downtown.
Plus, a lot of the new growth has also been fueled by New Orelans residents who left during Katrina and have decided to make Baton Rouge a permanent home. For those who blame the crime problem on NOLA residents, well you are wrong. Baton Rouge already had it's fair share of criminals long before Katrina.
The area is also becoming more culturally diverse, but blacks and whites still make up the majority of the population, along with a small, but growing latino population. I have also noticed that, compared to 20-30 years ago, race relations have improved somewhat. There is more work to be done, but any improvement is something to celebrate.
Of course, it would be sinful for me not to mention B.R. and not LSU , which is situated on the South end of town. it is definitely a huge part of the city's culture and heritage. LSU football is a religion here, that's for sure. The main "drag" is along Chimes St. and Highland Road near the campus with lots of bars, some coffeehouses and eateries. There is also Southern University at the North end of town, but there is not a whole lot outside of the campus. However, both schools have beautiful campuses situated along the Mississippi River and have definitely contributed to the city's history in a big way.
BR has a long way to go, but has the potential to be a city and area that people will appreciate.