Written by 225 Staff | October 2, 2018
When Samuel Sanders joined the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance in 2003, he wasn’t working to represent the Government Street we know today.
Back then, people weren’t clinking their glasses at The Radio Bar or buying local wares at Mid City Makers Market. They weren’t chowing down on burgers and enjoying live music at Curbside.
The groundwork for the neighborhood we know today was there, though. The streets were quieter, but there was a handful of vibrant, longstanding restaurants and quirky shops in the area. Garden District residents could get their groceries at Calandro’s. They could buy flowers at Heroman’s, or send their kids to school at Baton Rouge High, St. Joseph’s Academy or Baton Rouge Community College.
There were problems, sure—Government Street was saddled with a reputation for crime, for one. But there was also promise.
“When I first got here, it felt like I was beating a drum and no one was listening,” Sanders recalls of his early efforts to promote the area. “Today, they’re beating with us, and we’re making some pretty good music.”
Sanders is now the executive director of Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. Its role in the community, he says, is “creative place-making.” He and his team engage with residents and business owners and provide developers with tours and statistics. They help brand and promote the area’s events and smaller neighborhoods.
It’s a job that is becoming both easier and harder every day. Trendy new restaurants like Elsie’s Plate & Pie and the White Star Market food hall are serving up the coolest food in town. Big regular events like White Light Night and Ogden Park Prowl are drawing crowds. Even with the controversial road diet construction underway, Mid City is no longer a hard sell.
Since starting with the organization 15 years ago, Sanders says he’s seen property values rise—as much as 30% to 40% in some instances.
Carmen Austin, a realtor with Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate, agrees. Her firm has handled deals for some of the biggest projects along Government Street—buildings now housing Soji, Curbside, French Truck Coffee. She’s seen some properties double and triple in value over the last two decades. A building housing a Little Caesars Pizza is currently fetching multiple competitive offers, she says.
Carmen R. Austin, MBA, CCIM has been a practicing commercial real estate broker since 2001. She is a graduate of the Louisiana State University (LSU) E.J Ourso College of Business and the LSU Flores Masters of Business Administration (MBA) Program with a specialization in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate Finance. Her experience includes past employment as Regional Director of Leasing at Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the for-profit arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Carmen is a graduate of the Jay W. Levine Leadership Development Academy, Class of 2011, and served as the 2010 President of the Louisiana CCIM Chapter. She currently serves on the National CCIM Institute Board of Directors and the CCIM Institute Education Foundation Board of Directors.
Carmen’s affiliations include Louisiana REALTORS, Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors Commercial Investment Division, International Council of Shopping Centers, Commercial Real Estate Women, Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute, National Association of REALTORS, and Urban Land Institute. She is also an active volunteer on the Board of Directors for the Baton Rouge Gallery, LSU MBA Alumni Association, Junior Achievement of Baton Rouge, and the Junior League of Baton Rouge.
Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate, LLC is a member of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce (BRAC); the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce; the Baton Rouge Better Business Bureau; the Louisiana Commercial Data Base (LACDB); and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Several agents, on an individual basis, are members of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors® (SIOR), the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM); the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR); and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® Commercial Investment Division (CID).