Residents Businesses Visitors Government Search Directory Home
Urban Design

Planning Home

Urban Design and Special Districts


Information Bulletin 59: Urban Design & Urban Design Overlay Districts This document is in PDF format.  Download the free viewer from


Baton Rouge, like most communities in America, coordinates development through zoning regulations which separate uses of land into separate zones with specific activities permitted within each zone. These local laws grew out of the social reform and public health movements at the turn of the 20th century with the intention of protecting public health and safety from unsafe and overcrowded living conditions common at the time. By defining allowable property uses and thus constraining the intrusion of incompatible activities into residential and other areas, zoning laws have also proven useful as a means of protecting private property investment.

However, simply zoning individual parcels has proven to be inadequate for building livable communities and many communities have adopted plans to coordinate growth and development in their areas. The citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish recognized this inadequacy and in 1992, adopted the Horizon Plan as the comprehensive land use and development plan of the City-Parish. The Horizon Plan has been replaced by FUTUREBR following its unanimous adoption in the fall of 2011. FUTUREBR reflects our community's consensus of goals and objectives that maintain and promote a high quality of life for its citizens.


In particular, specific goals and objectives in FUTUREBR provide for protection and enhancement of the character of existing business, commercial and residential areas, as well as the visual and aesthetic character of the Parish. Neighborhoods are recognized building blocks of the community and many Action Items in FUTUREBR call for citizen participation in order to maintain or establish neighborhood identity.

In recent years, many communities have looked at ways to address quality of life issues which together create a viable and livable community. Urban design has great potential for enhancing the visual image and quality of neighborhoods. Urban design standards promoting excellence in development through architectural design and landscaping can create or renew a sense of local pride and identity. Urban design enhances the economic and physical characteristics of a neighborhood. Baton Rouge, through the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan has taken some bold steps to preserve and enhance the appearance of the community. These steps include the adoption of sign and landscape ordinances, for example.

FUTUREBR acknowledges that public and private development can improve the character of existing neighborhoods and enhance the sense of neighborhood identity. This has been recognized as an issue of such paramount importance that a new Element of the Plan, Urban Design and Neighborhoods, was created to address design of development. The policies in this Element complement and support those of the Land Use Element, with four Goals containing 35 Action Items. This Element also addresses the creation of Small Area Plans, and how they can be utilized to protect and enhance the fabric of neighborhoods. Not only are there many Action Items in FUTUREBR, but the FUTUREBR Strategic Implementation Plan identifies the need to create design guidelines as a primary implementation action that should occur in the first one to three years following adoption of the Plan.


Neighborhoods, districts, corridors, and special use areas are, in part, defined by their identifiable and memorable centers and edges. The image of gateways, natural and physical features, and transportation corridors can define the perception of a place. Physical design can help establish vitality in centers of activity by grouping public services, retail establishments and other amenities around a neighborhood focal point with a distinguishable identity.

An Urban Design Program providing guidelines for development activity in clearly defined special design areas, or design districts, can strengthen the physical and economic character of each neighborhood by mitigating or avoiding functional and architectural incompatibility of buildings or services. These design districts include growth centers, major transportation corridors, historic districts and other unique community areas as identified in the Horizon Plan.


Design guidelines are a voluntary supplement to general zoning regulations, designed to provide a framework for the protection and enhancement of the aesthetic, economic and environmental quality of the Parish by addressing development issues as related to neighborhood character and economic diversity. FUTUREBR places special emphasis upon the implementation of a Small Area Planning Process, as a means of encouraging citizen participation in the planning of their neighborhoods including the identification and enhancement of quality of life issues and aesthetics that create a sense of place.

Urban Design Districts

Urban Design Districts include design guidelines and also regulate permitted land uses in the district. This type of design district can be utilized when properties are in transition, usually from a residential use to an office or neighborhood commercial use.

Urban Design Overlay Districts

An Urban Design Overlay District is similar to the Urban Design District, as it pertains to design guidelines in a specific area. However, the Urban Design Overlay District does not change existing zoning of a property, rather it pertains to design elements of existing property within the Urban Design Overlay District.