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LSU’s Nicholson Gateway Moving Forward; New Affordable Housing Opens

27 Mar 2013, 5:30 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The Nicholson Development Plan was recently put to a vote, and the Louisiana State University (LSU) Board of Supervisors unanimously approved it. The project will see the underutilized tens of acres that make up the Nicholson Drive Corridor completely transformed from an underdeveloped, underperforming back-of-campus area into a gateway district.

According LSU’s homepage, the first phase—dubbed the Nicholson Gateway project—would reimagine the 28-acre area between West Chimes Street and Skip Bertman Drive into a student residential district and mixed-use retail-housing center. As previously reported on this page, the project will create hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space, such as office, retail and restaurant space, as well thousands of new student housing beds.

Some of the office development will be the new LSU Foundation headquarters, with over 149,000 square feet of office space replacing the old Alex Box Stadium. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, the LSU Board of Supervisors recently approved a ground lease for the site of the future $20 million HQ.

According to the same source, LSU’s board now has to analyze its options for developing Nicholson Gateway and decide between taking it on on its own, partnering with a private venture, partnering with a private entity via a non-profit, or contracting an outside company or venture to develop the project, which includes tearing down the outdated Nicholson Apartments and replacing it with market competitive student housing for upperclassmen and graduate students.

In other news, LDG Development and Louisiana Housing Corporation have recently officially opened the new 48-unit Woodcrest Family Apartments affordable housing project on N. Lobdell Avenue. The three-story development, which cost around $8 million to develop, offers 24 two-bedroom units and 24 three-bedroom apartments. Amenities include Energy Star appliances, landscaped grounds with picnic and grill areas, a residents’ parking lot, fitness center, business center, and clubhouse with entertainment equipment.

Designed by The Weber Group Inc., the five-acre property is managed by Latter and Blum Property Management and was financed by a bevy of sources including the State of Louisiana – Office of Community Development, Disaster Recovery Unit, East Baton Rouge Parish OCD, Louisiana Housing Corporation, United States Treasury Department, Stratford Capital Group, J.P. Morgan Chase and Hancock Bank.

Image courtesy of LSU

131-key Hotel Picked Up by CWI, Goes Under HRI Management

6 Mar 2013, 4:49 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

New York-based Carey Watermark Investors Incorporated (CWI) recently announced the acquisition of a five-property Hilton-branded hotel portfolio from Fairwood Capital LLC-managed entities. The transaction, valued at around $104 million, included $64.5 million in debt.

The portfolio includes the 131-key Hilton Garden Inn Baton Rouge Airport in Louisiana, the 105-key Hampton Inn & Suites Legacy Park-Frisco in Dallas, the 119-room Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Downtown, the 144-room Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Beale Street and the 133-room Hampton Inn Birmingham-Colonnade in Alabama.

The latter three hotels are to be managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, while the first two have been included in HRI Lodging Inc.’s (HRIL) management portfolio. All properties were constructed between 1994 and 2004 and underwent significant renovation between 2010 and 2012.

However, HRI Lodging’s sister company HRI Construction has been tapped to handle physical improvements to CWI’s newly acquired properties. Planned work will include upgrading design features to align the hotel with contemporary design standards.

“Adding these two hotels to our portfolio is another step in HRI Lodging’s long-range growth plan… We look forward to implementing the programs and standards that have been successful at our other properties in order to maximize the performance for the owners and the customer experience for our guests,“ HRIL President Gary Gutierrez declared in a news release.

The two hotels represent New Orleans-based HRIL’s eighth and ninth properties, bringing the company’s room inventory to 1,614.

The 131-key Hilton Garden Inn Baton Rouge Airport’s amenities include a 24-hour business center, over 1,500 square feet of meeting space, fitness room, pool, lounge, bar, onsite convenience store, Wi-Fi and the onsite Great American Grill restaurant.

HRI Lodging operates hotel properties in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Garden Inn Baton Rouge Airport’s Google+ profile

$3.5M Repentance Park Set for February Opening

6 Feb 2013, 6:27 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The wait for the highly anticipated Repentance Park will soon be over, the Downtown Development District of Baton Rouge recently announced. The entity reports that barring unfavorable weather, the park will wrap up redesign and open by the end of February.

The project, designed by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects with subconsultants Reich Associates and Suzanne Turner Associates, was proposed by the Riverfront Master Plan and Plan Baton Rouge II’s ‘Central Green’ concept.

The park has undergone a reconfiguration process, turning it into a visually pleasing public open space connecting the Municipal Campus, River Center Campus, North Boulevard Town Square and the Arts and Entertainment District.  Repentance’s new design more invitingly promotes pedestrian activity and community engagement, as well as public events.

Among redesign work done at the park is the removal of a parapet wall at the City Hall Plaza, creation of new pedestrian walks, and the creation of amphitheater-like area by the introduction of a gradually sloping lawn. The latter will be used as a concert and performing arts venue.

A pedestrian promenade was created along St. Philip Street, as well as a lit pathway outfitted with benches at the southern part of site.  The park’s highest terrace will feature an interactive water fountain under a shade grove. In fact, 750 fountain jets have been installed at Repentance.

Repentance Park’s new design allows for a variety of uses while being adaptable in the long run. The park has a price tag of $3.5 million. It was initially slated for a late 2012 completion. The project’s primary contractor is Group Industries.

According to The Times-Picayune, the park was named after the only street that ran contrary to Baton Rouge’s original grid design. The street was partially covered by the construction of the Old State Capitol. Though the park will open as soon as it is finished, the ribbon-cutting has been scheduled for April.

Image courtesy of the Downtown Development District 

182-Unit Multifamily Complex Planned, LSU Foundation Considers New HQ at Nicholson Gateway

2 Feb 2013, 5:15 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Zachary, La. might see some new multifamily development in the near future, as a permit application has been filed for a 182-unit apartment complex between Barsket Road and Bur Oak Drive, on Mount Pleasant Zachary Road, reports The Advocate. Owner Heritage Construction plans to build a 12-building apartment community featuring one-, two- and three-bedroom units and amenities such as a clubhouse and a car wash stall. Cost are estimated at $14.5 million

In other news, the Louisiana State University (LSU) Foundation is considering building a new headquarters within the Nicholson Drive Corridor redevelopment project. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, LSU Foundation representatives are considering the move as not only is the Foundation’s current lease at the Lod Cook Alumni Center on West Lakeshore Drive providing insufficient space, but a new HQ would also provide space for LSU Press and University Relations currently housed in separate structures among sorority houses. A move could also free up space for one or possibly even two new sororities. The new location would be part of the Nicholson Gateway redevelopment project and would take up 149,250 square feet of office space near the old Alex Box Stadium.

As previously reported on this page, LSU is considering the redevelopment of the Nicholson Drive Corridor, a project that could cost between $140 million and $200 million and create an estimated 130,000 square feet of retail, 110,000 square feet (or more) of office space, surface parking and about 1,200 rental student residences. Expanding a streetcar line to the area has also been brought up in some instances. The project, expected to soon go before the LSU Board of Supervisors might break ground as early as 2014, with the first phase completing in 2015 and the entire project wrapping up in 2018. LSU might undertake the project on its own, or enter into a partnership with a foundation or private developer.

Los Angeles, CA-based AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services helped in creating the redevelopment plan, after public and stakeholder meetings.

Image courtesy of LSU’s Facebook page


Costco Heading to Baton Rouge; Condominium Project to Add 104 Units

25 Jan 2013, 10:39 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Costco’s coming to Baton Rouge seems more like a question of “when” than “how,” after the most recent East Baton Rouge City-Parish Planning Commission meeting. Costco Wholesale Corp., the Issaquah, Wash.-based international chain of membership warehouses, has received site plan approval from the Planning Commission, reports The Advocate.

According to the Baton Rouge publication, the store will be located on Dawnadele Ave. in the now-defunct Coca-Cola bottling plant. The proposed 144,807-square-foot Costco warehouse, which will be more than 30-foot high, and 3,840-square-foot gas service station will be developed on 15 acres of land out of the total 28 acres the company has under contract. Costco plans to open the store warehouse by summer 2014, depending, on the property sale finalizing and state and city-parish approvals.The remaining outparcels will be developed later.

The warehouse club retailer also received a sign waiver allowing it to install four signs atop the structure. The sign will have to be scaled to the height and acreage of the building.

Costco Wholesale representatives are advocating for several changes to Dawnadale Ave., such as new turn lanes, as the road is incompatible with retail developments in its current state.

In other news, the planning commission meeting also approved plans for the expansion of The Cottages at Southfork condo project.

The Cottages at Southfork has received final development plan approval for 19 structures on 2,250-square-foot lots. The buildings will consist of 104 single-family attached condo units. The development currently consists of 40 condos in five buildings located off Sherwood Forest, near Interstate 12. The one-story condos feature two or three bedrooms, two-car garages, large master suites and open floor plans, with kitchens centering around islands. The project also boasts a swimming pool.

Tower Capital Corp. is the project’s developer, while construction is being handled by FaKouri Construction, Inc. and E. Jacob Construction Inc. All companies are Baton Rouge-based and have been involved in several other condominium projects in the state capital.

Photo courtesy of  The Cottages at Southfork’s Facebook profile

LSU Master Plan Proposes to Redevelop Nicholson Drive Corridor, Spend Up to $200M

11 Jan 2013, 8:44 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Louisiana State University (LSU), one of the economic driving forces in Baton Rouge, announced a new plan that could make a difference in the Nicholson Drive Corridor, if not the city. According to a report by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, LSU’s Department of Residential Life has submitted a master plan for the project to the LSU Board of Supervisors. The master plan could go on the board’s agenda as soon as Feb. 1.

Though few details have been released, the proposed master plan could cost between $140 million and $200 million and would create not only thousands of new student housing units, but hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space. The multi-phase project would raze the outdated Alex Box Stadium and replace it with a mixed-use development with street-level retail topped by residential housing. North of the stadium, LSU’s married student housing would also be demolished, and replaced with three residential-only structures and much-needed surface parking. It is estimated that 130,000 square feet of retail, 110,000 square feet of office space, surface parking an about 1,200 multifamily units would be created. The residential element of project would mostly target LSU’s student body, but a proposed 89 units could rent at market rate and house LSU staff and faculty members. The idea of a streetcar line has also been brought up.

According to the same report, if the project is green-lit, it could start as early as 2014, and the first phase of development, containing mixed-use, as well as residential-only structures, could be finished in 2015-2016. The entire project could wrap up in 2017 or 2018. LSU has yet to decide if it plans to develop and manage the project on its own or enter a partnership with a private developer or foundation.

Los Angeles-based AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services helped in creating the redevelopment plan, after public and stakeholder meetings.

The news was received with mostly positive feedback from students and alumni of LSU, as well as the general Baton Rouge population, garnering several hundred likes and dozens of comments in only a few days on LSU’s Facebook page.

Image courtesy of LSU’s Facebook page

Technip Lands FEED Contract for Potential $700M Plant Expansion

5 Jan 2013, 2:32 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Technip, a global project management, engineering and construction firm targeting the energy industry, has announced The Mosaic Group has awarded it the front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract for a new ammonia plant currently under consideration.

According to The Advocate, the new facility would be located adjacent to the Faustina plant in St.James Parish and will cost around $700 million. If Mosaic decides to go forward with the build, construction would probably start in 2014. The plant could be operational by early 2016 and would generate 53 new direct jobs with average salaries of $83,000 per year. 366 indirect jobs would also be created by the expansion, while around 1,400 workers would be employed during construction. The State of Louisiana is also offering a $3 million, five-year Modernization Tax Credit as well as job training services, to attract the development.

Mosaic is the world’s largest producer of finished phosphate products, with annual production capacity greater than the next two largest producers combined. The company plans to integrate more fully into ammonia production by expanding its present capacity at Faustina. The proposed expansion would increase  production capacity to 2,200 metric tons per day -  almost triple its current output. Mosaic already has two facilities in the Greater Baton Rouge Area: the Faustina fertilizer manufacturing facility on the west side of the Mississippi River and Uncle Sam on the river’s eastern bank.

According to a press release, the plant’s design will feature Haldor Topsøe’ proprietary ammonia process technology that Technip has utilized for the past 40 years. Technip will also be in charge of preparing the corresponding engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) proposal including preliminary design work for plant offsite, interconnections, utilities and various supporting units for the facility.

The FEED contract will be executed by the Houston office of Technip in collaboration with the Technip engineering center located in Rome, Italy. Both FEED and EPC proposals begin in November 2012 and are expected to complete by mid-2013, when Mosaic will make the final decision regarding the expansion.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Loxton via Wikimedia Commons

$4.7M Affordable Housing Property Opens in Downtown Baton Rouge

21 Dec 2012, 10:17 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Baton Rouge is offering affordable downtown housing for those looking to work, play and live in downtown.

The Downtown Development District (DDD) recently announced the opening of the 22-unit affordable housing project, 438 Main Street Apartments. The property, currently in the process of vetting applicants, features one- and two-bedroom units ranging between 538 square feet and 920 square feet. Six floor plans are available at the property. Apartments feature stained concrete floors, ceramic tiles, outdoor balconies, walk-in closet, and a full range of appliances including microwave, dishwasher, in-unit washer/dryer and refrigerator. Community amenities include a community room, elevator, covered parking, courtyard and on-call maintenance. 438 Main Street also has access to public transportation, though many destinations can easily be reached on foot.

“As Downtown continues to grow it is imperative that we continue to look forward and provide housing to support our downtown work force,” said Davis Rorer, executive director for DDD.

The project cost $4.7 million and was developed by Norman Chenevert and Helena and Kevin Cunningham. According to The Advocate the developers paid $369,544 for the former Brown building’s site. Of the total development cost, $3.5 million was provided by federal funds, while $1.2 million was secured through Liberty Bank.  Seventeen units will be affordable, with three units renting at $300 per month, and the remaining five apartments will be market rate.

New Orleans-based Latter & Blum, a licensed real estate brokerage firm, was chosen to handle property management services.

Photo courtesy of 438mainstreetapartments.com 

LDG Development Opens $24M Affordable Apartment Community

18 Dec 2012, 4:28 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Baton Rouge has gained yet another apartment community: Mallard Crossing, a 192-unit affordable housing complex on Greenwell Spring Road. According to a report by The Advocate, the $24 million development, located next to the Greenwell Spring library, features two- and three-bedroom units. Apartments range between 909 square feet and 1,106 square feet and come equipped with washer/dryer, dishwasher and microwave.

The Weber Group, Inc. handled design for Mallard Crossing, while property management was supplied by Latter&Blum Property Management. Funding was secured from several sources, including Bank of America, Freddie Mac, CW Capital/Walker Dunlop, as well as the state Office of Community Development, the City-Parish Office of Community Development and the Louisiana Housing Corp.

Mallard Crossing’s developer, Louisville, Ky.-based LDG Development develops, builds, renovates and operates rental communities targeting a moderate-income demographic. LDG’s previous work includes the $49 million The Muses I and the $11 million The Muses II apartment communities in New Orleans. Completed in 2009 and 2010, The Muses feature a total of 263 apartment units. According to the Green Architecture and Business Report, the mixed-income apartment community is the first LEED NC-Silver certified multifamily project in New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. LDG developed the project with the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership.

In other news, New Orleans-based fast-casual barbecue restaurant chain VooDoo BBQ & Grill has announced it will be opening a location in Perkins Rowe. 

“We’ve been aggressively expanding in other states this year, but this is a great move to shore up our solid foundation in our home state,” said VooDoo BBQ CEO Tony Avila in a press release. He added: “Perkins Rowe is a unique development with a tremendous amount of foot and vehicular traffic and potential for even more.”

The restaurant will be the chain’s 12th Louisiana location and third in Baton Rouge. VooDoo executives have signed a development deal with Brad Smith and Joe Scardino, the owners of another Baton Rouge VooDoo restaurant located on Drusilla Lane.

Located at the intersection of Perkins Road and Bluebonnet Boulevard, Perkins Rowe is mixed use development, featuring 300 condominium and apartment units, as well as office space, a movie complex, a grocery store, a book store and space for approximately 60 restaurants and shops.

Founded in 2002 in New Orleans, VooDooo BBQ & Grill has 57 restaurants across six states.

Photo courtesy of VooDoo BBQ Drusilla Lane’s Facebook page

American Campus Purchases Baton Rouge Student Housing in $862.8M Deal

11 Dec 2012, 12:36 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Two Baton Rouge student housing complexes have sold as part of a large portfolio purchase by American Campus Communities Inc. in a deal valued at $862.8 million.

American Campus, the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing properties in the U.S., purchased the student housing properties from Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, L.P affiliates. The Cottages of Baton Rouge and U Club Cottages comprise a total of 12,049 beds, including 366 beds at expansion of an existing complex (expected to be completed in third quarter 2013). The deal, which just recently closed, includes in its purchase price $395.8 million of outstanding mortgage debt.

Located at 777 Ben Hur Road, The Cottages of Baton Rouge is a 1,290-bed student housing complex near Louisiana State University.  The gated community features high-end amenities such as a 24-hour fitness center, 24-hour computer center equipped with iMacs, pcs and complimentary printing, Wi-fi Hotspots, two-story clubhouse out decked with television sets, billiards, foosball, shuffle board, etc. Other amenities include a swimming pool, poolside cabana, poolside jumbo screen, sundeck, barbeque grills, outdoor fireplace, hammock garden, barbeque grills and free tanning service. Outdoor amenities include recreational green spaces, walking and fitness trail, ponds and lakes, a catch and release lake, sandy volleyball court and tennis court. The community is pet friendly, and includes pet washing stations. Individual units feature granite kitchen countertops, stainless steel appliances, full-sized refrigerators, walk-in closets, full-sized washer and dryer and air conditioning in each room.

5689 River Road, U Club Cottages, formerly known as Aspen Heights, is a 308-bed student housing complex that is also adjacent to the Louisiana State University campus. The card-controlled access community features a fitness center, computer center, media room, study area with conference room, on-site maintenance and on-site management. Complimentary tanning, a swimming pool, hot tub, BBQ pavilion and porch swings are also available at the pet-friendly community. Units feature walk-in closets, full-sized refrigerators, granite kitchen countertops and dishwashers.

“These assets represent an exceptional opportunity to increase our asset base with high-quality properties and locations in Tier 1 university markets,” said American Campus CEO Bill Bayless in a press release.

Photo courtesy of Aspen Heights’ Facebook profile

Baton Rouge Student Housing Complexes Go On the Market

26 Nov 2012, 11:12 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Covington, LA-based Stirling Properties has placed on the market two Baton Rouge student housing complexes. The 268-unit Place du Plantier and the 446-unit Fairview View Apartments are part of a six-property student housing portfolio being sold by Heitman, a Chicago real estate management firm. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Stirling Properties is also selling two student housing complexes in College Station near the Texas A&M campus and one student housing property near Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., all of them currently owned by Heitman.

According the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Stirling Properties will announce property prices after the Dec. 4 call for offers deadline expires. Reportedly, the properties are expected to generate interest from both local and national investors and will most likely be under contract by the time the new year rolls around.

Located on 2225 College Drive, the 446-unit Fairview View Apartments is just a few minutes from Louisiana State University, Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College. Built in 1972, units range between one-bed one-bath layouts and three-bed two-bath layouts with surfaces between 632 and 1331 square feet.

The 550 Lee Drive 268-unit Place du Plantier student apartment complex was also built 1972. Apartments range from one-bedroom one-and-a-half bath units to three-bedroom two-bath residences. Community amenities include a clubhouse, two swimming pools, a tennis court and a sand volleyball court, as well as an onsite laundry facility. The community offers 24-hour emergency management and online payment, while also allowing pets.  Some units feature sundecks, patios, balconies, walk-in closets, fully equipped kitchens as well as washer/dryers.

Photo courtesy of Fairview View Apartments’ Facebook page

Carter Lands Second Project at University of Louisiana at Lafayette

12 Nov 2012, 10:35 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The investment, development and advisory firm Carter announced it has been selected for a second project at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). The company will be responsible for managing the development of the university’s new 170,000-square-foot student union.

“We are thrilled to be a part of two side-by-side projects that are transforming the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus in such a positive way. We are pleased to continue our relationship with both the University of Louisiana and The Foundation,” stated John Jokerst, senior vice president of Carter. John Joekrst will be leading the second UL Lafayette project.

The announcement comes after Carter’s September announcement of closings on development deals worth $100 million, as well as plans to start construction on projects worth around $200 million by early 2013.

Carter had announced in 2011 that it will be focusing on equity development in student housing, multifamily and mixed-use projects in core areas, as well as value-add office investment opportunities, and education-oriented project management. It had also announced it would expand its strategic consulting/advisory services practices.

Work is already in progress for the student union, and is expected to complete by fall of 2014.

Carter was previously involved in developing UL Lafayette’s new 1,934-bed student housing, which celebrated its official inauguration earlier in October, as reported on this page. The $98 million project razed five existing buildings and replaced them with four new structures totaling 470,000 square feet, while also renovating three other structures totaling 57,000 square feet. The project, which also included a 850-car parking deck and 8,000 square feet of retail, was delivered within a 30-month timeline. Carter handled evaluation and selection of proposals and development teams, and it stayed throughout the process as owner’s representative.

Carter’s higher education group has managed $2.5 billion in new projects and capital improvements, completing more than 70 projects on 30 separate campuses.

Rendering courtesy of Carter

CF Industries Announces $3.8B Expansion of Industrial Facilities

3 Nov 2012, 6:12 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Deerfield, Illinois-based CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has announced expansions worth $3.8 billion at existing plants in Donaldsonville, La. and Port Neal, Iowa.

“We are pleased to announce definitive, large-scale nitrogen capacity expansion plans at our North American operations focused on substantially increasing our ability to serve our customers”, stated CF Industries Holdings’ chairman and chief executive officer, Stephen R. Wilson in a  press release. “We believe that our projects will be among the first in North America to be in production. We already own suitable sites, have retained a world-class engineering partner and have completed the front end engineering and design study for key components of the projects.”

CF’s board of directors approved the construction of  new ammonia and urea/UAN production units at CF’s existing 700-acre Donaldsonville operations, and new ammonia and urea units at its complex in Port Neal. Upon completion the projects will have an annual output of 2.1 million tons of gross ammonia and upgraded products ranging from 2.0 to 2.6 million tons of granular urea and up to 1.8 million tons of UAN.

The engineering partner is Uhde Corporation of America, ThyssenKrupp Uhde’s North-American affiliate. Uhde Corporation of America will be handling engineering and procurement services for both projects, having had extensive experience in the field of developing nitrogen plants worldwide.  According to Anthony W. Will, senior vice president manufacturing and distribution, brownfield construction of new ammonia and upgraded product plants will be the most cost-effective way to expand CF’s operations and production. “We have completed a significant amount of engineering and design work with them, and the rigor of that work along with bids we have received from several construction firms give us confidence in our project cost estimates and timelines.”

Some of the major equipment necessary for both projects have already been ordered, and permit applications for the Donaldsonville location are to be submitted by the end of November 2012. Funding for the projects is already being lined up, as CF Industries also expects a strong balance sheet, investment grade credit ratings and dependable access to debt financing as well as a solid cashflow.

Donaldsonville was selected due to the advantageous cost of North American natural gas combined with the five natural gas pipelines that serve the area. Furthermore, the state of Louisiana and Ascension Parish has offered incentive packages to attract the multibillion development.

The Donaldsonville facility is expected to create 93 direct jobs with average starting salaries of $55,000, increasing to $85,000 per year when full certification is reached by employees. The plant will also create 700 indirect jobs. The new urea and UAN plants are slated to be completed in the second half of 2015. The new ammonia plant is expected to open in 2016.

Photo credit: Sharon Loxton via Wikimedia Commons

BSF Develops $138M Industrial Plant in Louisiana

29 Oct 2012, 5:31 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Florham Park, N. J.-based BSF Corp. has broken ground on the Geismar formic acid plant, in its third largest investment in the past two years. According to wwltv.com, the investment totals $138 million.

The new production facility will be located on BASF’s 2,600-acre Ascension Parish chemical plant, the company’s largest North American operation. BASF’s 23rd North-American plant is expected to finish by mid-2014 and create 20 new permanent jobs as well as an additional 250 construction jobs.

“BASF is one of the largest economic drivers in our state, and projects with the company have yielded over $300 million in new capital investment and over 400 new jobs for Louisianans since 2009,” declared Bobby Jindal, according to a press release. “BASF could have invested in other states, but they are choosing to expand right here in Louisiana because we have a great business climate, a strong transportation infrastructure and the best workers in the world.”

The unique North America facility will produce an estimated 50,000 tons of formic acid annually for markets in the Americas. The product is utilized as an eco-friendly solution for applications such as roads and runway de-icing, pharmaceutical and other chemical intermediates, household and industrial cleaning and many more.  “This new plant further strengthens our position as a leading supplier of chemistry for sustainable solutions”, observed BASF’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Geismar site Tom Yura. BASF Corp. is the North American affiliate of BASF SE of Ludwighaven, Germany,

Yura added: “This investment also demonstrates our commitment to the future growth of this site and our employees in Geismar.” The project was aided by a Modernization Tax Credit from the Louisiana Economic Development. The investor will most likely make use of Louisiana’s Enterprise Zone and Industrial Tax Exemption program as well.

In other news, the Baton Rouge’s very own “One Stop Shop” Public Works and Planning Center has opened at 1100 Laurel Street, consolidating City-Parish services such as the Planning Commission, DPW Divisions and Business Services into one building.

The 150-employee City-Parish services hub moved into the renovated former Baton Rouge Junior High School. Constructed in the early 1920s and redeveloped into a city courthouse in the ‘60s, the building had, however, fallen into disrepair over the years. It recently underwent a major renovation, including efficiency upgrades worth $1.7 million, making it the first LEED-certified municipal building in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Photo credit: BASF North America’s Facebook page

Fairfield Residential Moves Forward with $29M Project in Baton Rouge

19 Oct 2012, 10:19 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

One of most major projects proposed for Baton Rouge is moving forward. Irving, Texas-based Fairfield Residential Company LLC’s $29 million student/multifamily apartment project has received approval from the city-parish Planning Commission, according to a report by The Advocate.

Named Fairfield at Baton Rouge, the 898-bed development would take up 40 acres at Burbank Drive and Ben Hur Road, with construction concentrated along Burbank. The 299-unit multifamily project will encompass six buildings containing 36 one-bedroom units, 70 two-bedroom units, 50 three-bedroom unit and 117 four-bedroom units, as well as 26 townhomes on 40 acres. Amenities include a clubhouse, fitness center, cyber café, courtyards and cabanas. 1,020 parking spaces will service the development. Two acres on the southern corner of Burbank and Ben Hur will be saved for future retail projects.

Eighty-two of the entire 124-acres site will be kept free of development and will feature only walking trails. Due to 10 acres of wetlands contained in the project, conservation groups have opposed Fairfield at Baton Rouge. Groundbreaking is set for later this year, with phase one slated to open in August 2014, and phase two the following year.

In other news, Emerson Electric Co. has announced its intention to develop a 105,000-square-foot facility in Gonzales. The $10 million project will establish the new regional headquarters of Emerson Process Management, a division of Emerson Electric.

The facility is to be located on a 19-acre site, which the company has already purchased. The new headquarters will consolidate the company’s regional manufacturing, training, engineering, sales and service operations. The state-of-the-art development will retain the 125 jobs at its existing operations and create 50 new ones with annual salaries of $49,000 plus benefits. Additionally, 28 new indirect jobs will be created, as well as 75 temporary construction jobs.

The state offered Emerson a Modernization Tax Credit of $375,000, payable over five years. The company will most likely also make use of  Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption incentive programs. Emerson will also profit from specially negotiated sales tax incentives from the City of Gonzales, Ascension Parish and the Ascension Economic Development Corp.

“This expansion will give our citizens the opportunity to work for a first-class, Fortune 500 company and it will give our schools the opportunity to use a $1 million training facility to train the workforce of the future in the latest technology,” stated Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux in a press release.

Photo credit: Emerson Process Management’s Facebook page

Chart courtesy of Hendricks & Partners

LSU’s Engineering Complex to Undergo $100M Renovation

5 Oct 2012, 9:52 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Louisiana State University’s (LSU) Patrick F. Taylor Hall, home to the university’s College of Engineering, is set to undergo a massive renovation and expansion project valued at around $100 million.

The Louisiana Governor’s Office recently announced a public-private partnership to overhaul Patrick F. Taylor Hall and turn it into a state-of-the-art engineering education complex. “Making sure we have the most skilled workforce in the world so we can attract the jobs of the future starts at our flagship university (..) That means making LSU a magnet to attract the best and brightest students, teachers and researchers from all over the world,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a plaboress release. He added “[it] is about fulfilling that goal and continuing on our mission to help LSU reach its full potential. The new engineering education complex will create a state-of-the-art learning environment to train the engineers of tomorrow and give them skills they need to find job opportunities here in Louisiana, which will help us continue to grow our economy.”

Built in 1977, Patrick F. Taylor Hall currently has a surface of 300,000 square feet. The announced project would renovate and upgrade the existing space and expand it by over 80,000 square feet. Due to its age, to Taylor Hall has suffered significant structural depreciation. The planned 80,000-square-foot addition would be dedicated to chemical engineering.  Upon completion, the project is expected to include increased and upgraded laboratory teaching and translational research space, modernized and expanded student services and student space, dedicated capstone project space, an academic support center and additional multi-disciplinary student project space.

The architectural design phase is slated to start in December, with groundbreaking set for the fall of 2014. Work is expected to be wrap up by fall 2016.

The partnership would split the costs evenly, with the state providing $50 million in capital outlay funding, while the remaining $50 million needed would be raised through private donations.  The College of Engineering has already raised $8 million, and it still has to amass more than five times that amount by groundbreaking.

Approximately 560 bachelor’s degrees are awarded every year at the LSU College of Engineering. In Louisiana engineers generally average salaries ranging between $83,000 and $108,000, plus benefits.

In the last four years the Jindal Administration has provided upwards of $600 million dollars for critical higher education infrastructure investments, including over $150 million for at LSU and the Baton Rouge research community.

Photo credit: LSU College of Engineering’s Page

Stirling Properties Picks Up Condo Community for $23.5M

28 Sep 2012, 11:58 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

A group of investors led by Stirling Properties has purchased the Tiger Manor Condominiums apartment community for $23.5 million, or $86,715 per unit, cash. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, the Convington-based real estate firm will also act as asset manager to the property with BH Management of Des Moines, Iowa providing on-site primary property management services.

Tiger Manor Condominiums is a 8.23-acre luxury apartment community situated at 3000 July Street, across the north gates of Louisiana State University. According to the buyer’s website, the community features 271 units in 15 three-story buildings as well as 15 units in one- and two-story structures for a total building surface of 229,683 square feet. There are one-, two- and three-bedroom units, as well as studio apartments and cottages. The low-rise, garden-style community features luxury amenities such as two outdoor pools with lounge areas, a fitness center complete with treadmills and cardio machines outfitted with cable TV, fitness machines and weights, a club house complete with fireplace, a game room with air hockey, a study room with complimentary Wi-Fi, a business center, tailgating room, breakfast bar with complimentary breakfast during semester weekdays and New Orleans style courtyards. On-site maintenance and an on-site courtesy officer complete the experience.

Following a massive renovation in 2008-2009 the 1970-built community now features wireless intrusion alarms, over 60 security cameras, electric gates as well as new roofing, lighting, siding,  pavements, HVAC, windows, doors, fencing, paint as well as updated landscaping.

Tiger Manor’s interiors were also redone with new insulation and sheetrock. Units were refitted with stainless steel appliances, new fixtures and finshes, washer-dryer units, cherry cabinets, ceiling fans in every room, slab granite countertops, ceramic, tile, wood-laminate flooring crown moldings and berber carpets.

Tiger Manor features on-site surface parking for 409.

Photo credit: Tiger Manor Condominiums’ Facebook profile 

Forum Energy To Build $19M Facility to Manufacture Drilling Equipment

21 Sep 2012, 9:56 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Houston-based Forum Energy Technologies announced it will be expanding its Louisiana presence by building a new 150,000-square-foot facility in St. Martin Parish.

According to a report by Acadiana Business, the $19 million development will manufacture onshore and offshore drilling equipment serving the global energy market. The new facility will replace an existing operational structure in adjacent Broussard. The company will retain all 203 jobs in the existing facility, while increasing its workforce by 125 new direct jobs over five years. Salaries are expected to be around $45,000. Louisiana economic development officials estimate the expansion will create 300 indirect jobs as well.

The new manufacturing facility will be located off U.S. 90, next to the SMEDA Business & Industrial Park. Construction is expected to start by the end of the year and finish by 2013’s fourth quarter. Forum is expected to benefit from several state incentives. Among these is a $700,000 performance-based Economic Development Award Program that will cover drainage infrastructure upgrades needed at the site.  Both the Louisiana Quality Jobs and the Industrial Tax exemption programs are expected to be utilized.

Forum Energy Technologies is a global provider of manufactured technologies and applied products and services to the global energy industry’s drilling, production and infrastructure markets. Forum employs about 3,200 in 80 locations, has a presence in all the key oil field distribution centers of the world.

In other news, Royal Nissan has announced it will be installing electric car charging stations around Baton Rouge to facilitate the use of the eco-friendly Nissan Leaf models. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, 15 to 20 charging stations will be installed in two to three months’ time. The stations will be located in downtowns, shopping centers, and other hot spots. The company has allocated $100,000 for the Baton Rouge chargers and is currently in negotiations with local businesses for locations and charger types that range from $3,000 to $9,000 in price.

Baton Rouge is The Pelican State’s leader for the environmental-friendly cars, with up to 10 units sold in the first three months after the model hit the market.

Photo credit: evgonetwork via flickr.com

Apartment Development on Jefferson Highway Faces Road Block

14 Sep 2012, 4:08 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The 315-unit mixed-use Cedar Lodge Apartments project planned on Jefferson Highway might not take off from the drawing board, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. According to the report the reason for this is the inability to provide more than one access way into the development. The only access that can be implemented might place too much pressure on Jefferson Highway.

Two other projects were cancelled earlier this year for the same reasons: mega-church Bethany World Prayer Center and The Preserve, an apartment complex. Cedar Lodge Apartments is a 315-unit mixed-use apartment complex with 56,000 square feet of retail space. Phil Witter is the developer of the project.

While Cedar Lodge faces an uncertain future, high-profile luxury mega-development The High Grove is making up for time lost due to unfavorable weather, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

The project, which broke ground in late March, is one of the most ambitious projects attempted in Baton Rouge. The High Grove is the centerpiece of The Grove, a traditional neighborhood development (TND) developed by Baton Rouge-based Carmouche Development. The 118-acre project located along 1-10, east of the mall of Louisiana, will create a mixed-use community in a village-centered layout. Retail, commercial and office space will blend with single-family homes, senior housing, luxury rental housing as well as a full-service hotel. Forty-two acres will be preserved as green space.

The High Grove features 198 luxury one-and two-bedroom apartments at a projected development cost of $28 million. High-end fixtures, granite finishes, walk-in closets, washers and dryers will be found in all units. Most residences will contain balconies and terraces.

Community amenities will include a resort-style pool with a soaking deck, green lawns, an outdoor fireplace, gas grills and cooking areas, an indoor/outdoor lounge area, cyber café, media center, state of the art fitness center,  theatre, tanning room and meeting room and other features. Parking will be ensured by onsite garages and carports, which will be installed with photovoltaic panels. The property will apply for LEED Silver Certification. Other green features of the property include energy-star lighting and appliances, high-efficiency HVAC systems, water-conserving appliances and fixtures, landscaping with low-water consumption and wiring for future electric car-ports.

Phase one is set to be completed by May 2013, and phase two by October 2013.

Photo credit: highgrovebr.com

Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center Changes Hands for $40 M

7 Sep 2012, 3:29 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

This week marks the closing of a major commercial real estate transaction for the Baton Rouge market and especially its hospitality industry. According to a story by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Kevin Gallagher, senior vice president of Prism Hotels & Resorts, has announced Prism will be staying on to manage the downtown hotel in a partnership with the buyer, identifying the new owner as RockBridge Capital LLC, of Columbus, OH. The buyer paid $40 million for the property—considerably less than the estimated $70 million it took to revitalize the property by former owner Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the for-profit branch of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF).

According to a May 2012 article by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Commercial Properties Realty Trust began marketing the hotel earlier that month. Initially, Prism seemed to be the likely buyer, as it took over management of the hotel the same month, and had a history with the property, as it was the BRAF’s partner in renovating and reopening the hotel back in 2006. In May the word at Prism was that purchasing the hotel will be considered during a 60-day due diligence period.

The Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, located in downtown Baton Rouge, features 290 guest rooms, eight of which are luxury suites. All rooms have complimentary high-speed wireless internet access. The hotel also features an executive floor with a private lounge and concierge, complimentary continental breakfast and evening reception. Hotel amenities include 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms with views of the Mississippi River and downtown Baton Rouge, a business center, full-service spa, a fully equipped fitness center, an outdoor pool and garden deck. Dining options include The Kingfish Grill with its Cajun cuisine and fresh seafood and The Viking Cooking School, the outdoor pavilion restaurant, which also offers cooking classes to interested parties.

The Hilton finished a $70 million renovation in 2006, as the 1927-built property sat empty for several years, starting in 1985. It was even considered for demolition in 1982, but its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places saved it from the wrecking ball. The BRAF got involved with redeveloping the former Heidelberg Hotel and Capitol House in the 1990s. An undisclosed, but large, part of the renovation costs were covered by state and federal historic tax credits and tax increment financing, according to The Advocate. Following the impressive overhaul, the Hilton Capitol received a four-diamond status from the AAA for exceptional hospitality, customer service and physical attributes. The hotel also received the 2012 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award.

Photo credit: Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center’s Google + Profile