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Over $1B Investment Planned for Capital Region’s Manufacturing Industry

31 Aug 2013, 6:27 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The Dow Chemical Company has officially confirmed the locations of it future expansions and investments as Plaquemine, Louisiana and Freeport, Texas. Originally announced in March 2013, construction is expected to begin soon at both sites.

Governor Bobby Jindal and Dow Louisiana Operations Site Leader Eduardo Do Val also made the announcement, focusing on Dow’s Louisiana investments, worth $1.06 billion. The investment will be made at Dow’s Plaquemine site, located in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. The company currently occupies 3,300 acres at the Plaquemine location and part of the investment will include capital upgrades planned for the company’s existing operation. Two new plants will also be constructed onsite: one will manufacture high-performance polyethylene and another is set to produce next-generation synthetic rubber. The investment will retain all 1,380 workers employed at the site and add 71 direct new jobs with wages averaging a yearly $49,000 plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development (LED) also estimates the creation of 150 contractor jobs to support the future facilities, as well 1,200 construction jobs and 470 indirect workplaces. Development is expected to be completed in late 2016; however, most jobs will be filled in 2015.

LED began negotiations with the New York Stock Exchange-listed company in February of this year. Incentives provided for the petrochemical company helped secure the project and include a $2.84 million Modernization Tax-Credit spread over five years as well as the LED FastStart access—a state program that provides, free of cost, a trained and highly qualified and customized workforce on the first day of operations. Dow will most likely also access Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

Dow is Louisiana’s largest petrochemical company and provides employment for 6,000 people including direct Dow employees, as well as contractors. The company shares a direct annual payroll of $312 million and has an estimated $1 billion yearly economic impact on the State of Louisiana. It has six locations throughout the Pelican State: Plaquemine, Grand Bayou, Greensburg, Hahnville, Sterlington and Weeks Island.

Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure includes six interstate highways, six Class 1 railroads and one of the largest ports in the world—the Port of New Orleans. The state also offers low electricity rates due to an abundance of natural gas as well as a multitude of state and local/municipal tax incentives which amount to the lowest business taxes in the US. According to LED-cited KPMG assessments, these factors have made the Bayou State one the most attractive locations for manufacturing jobs.

Image courtesy of Governor Bobby Jindal’s Facebook page



Embassy Suites Going for $20M

12 Aug 2013, 2:08 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

FelCor Lodging Trust Incorporated, an Irving, TX-based REIT boasting a portfolio of primarily upper-scale and luxury hotels located in major or resort markets, has announced entering an agreement to sell the 223-key Embassy Suites Baton Rouge for $20 million in a transaction expected to close by the end of the month. FelCor will direct all of the proceeds resulting from the sale towards repaying outstanding debt. The unnamed buyer has put forward a ten percent non-refundable deposit toward the purchase price.

Located at 4914 Constitution Ave., Embassy Suites Baton Rouge is less than 20 minutes from Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, just off I-10, and three miles from the state capital’s downtown. The hotel boasts 10,000 square feet of event space, comprised of several full-service meeting facilities including audio-visual support, several conference rooms, as well as an executive conference suite, complete with a full conference table within the living room, with the largest event space holding up to 500 guests. The hotel also features a 24-hour business center, Wi-Fi throughout, state-of-the-art fitness center, three-hole putting green, classic Louisiana-style open-air atrium and full-service catering department. Dining options include the on-site Zydeco Bar and Grill as well as the hotel’s cooked-to-order breakfast and complimentary evening reception.

According to The Advocate, the Embassy Suites Baton Rouge has been open since 1985 and was purchased by FelCor in 1996 for $30 million as part of a $275 million nine-hotel deal. FelCor invested $2.2 million in maintenance and upgrade work as well to re-enter the Embassy Suites brand the property had lost since its opening.

Other FelCor properties in the area include two New Orleans properties: the French Quarter-Chateau Lemoyne, a historic French Quarter hotel, part of the Holiday Inn brand and the Wyndham-branded downtown hotel Windham New Orleans – French Quarter.

Click here for further Baton Rouge market data

Image courtesy of Embassy Suites Hotel Baton Rouge’s Google+ profile



LSU’s Tiger Stadium

5 Aug 2013, 8:37 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Louisiana State University is pleased by the fast pace of expansion work at Tiger Stadium, also known as “Death Valley” in the world of sports. Built in 1924, the historic open-air sports venue, located on West Stadium Road in Louisiana’s state capital, is the home stadium of the Louisiana State University Tigers football field. It is currently the eighth largest on-campus stadium in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and is set to move up a notch upon completion of the expansion. Tiger Stadium currently clocks in at 92,542 seats, making it the fifth largest populated place in Louisiana on sold-out game nights. Capacity is set to increase to near—or even above—the 100,000 mark with the current $80 million renovation. The project, announced in April 2012 and kicked off last October, is well underway as demonstrated by LSU’s photos (gallery available here). Known as the South End Zone Addition Project, it encompasses the construction of about 68 suites, 3,000 club seats and 1,500 general seats, according to the project’s website. Set to rise above the south end zone bowl, it will also add two state-of-the-art HD corner scoreboards.

The new stadium suites, known as Tiger Dens, will accommodate 23 people with seating for 19 as well as two football parking passes. Amenities will include exclusive suite entrance, high-speed elevator access, 2,100 square feet of suite-level common areas, climate control throughout, locking storage, exclusive access washrooms, refrigerator, closed circuit television (CCTV) with instant replay as well as access to major networks, catered meals and beverages. According to the project website, initial suite assignment was completed in August 2012.

The 3,000 club seats will be located in the South Club, and were also distributed in August 2012. Amenities include high-speed elevator access, over 13,500 square feet of climate controlled lounge areas, CCTV, catered meals and beverages, and club level restrooms.

Information on the South End Zone Upper Deck has yet to be released, but it will mostly likely contain 1,500 general public seats.

Scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2014 football season, the project is funded completely and privately through the Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) in a manner reminiscent of the east side expansion of 2000 and west side expansion of 2005. The project will also help fund some of the Olympic facility needs of the venue, such as a new tennis facility as well as a new gymnastics practice facility which, in turn, will vacate their current location at the Carl Maddox Field House for additional space for the track and field teams. Upon announcement of the project, TAF intended to fund the work through a $100 million bond issue. According to a report by The Advocate, the State Bond Commission approved $75 million in privately funded borrowing for the project, while TAF has put in place $25 million in bank loans.

A joint venture comprised by The Lemoine Company and Brasfield & Gorrie is handling the expansion contract, worth $ 71,619,000, according to The Lemoine Company’s website.

Click here for further Baton Rouge market data

 Image courtesy of Louisiana State University



Tiger Manor Upgrades Complete, Vacancy Goes Down

3 Jul 2013, 7:49 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Covington-based Stirling Properties LLC has completed upgrades and maintenance work at Tiger Manor, the 287-unit multifamily development at 3000 July Street, just across the northern gate of the Louisiana State University (LSU) campus. According to Stirling Properties, the $1.4 million renovation included creating a new management office and a new primary road entrance off E. State Street, installing card access security systems, completely repainting the exteriors of all buildings, pool improvements as well and landscaping and irrigation. Furthermore, Stirling reported strong summer lease-up numbers with an average increase of five percent in new leases signed.

As previously reported by MHN City Pages, Tiger Manor, formerly known as Tiger Manor Condominiums, was purchased by Stirling Properties in September 2012, for $23.5 million. The property features luxury amenities such as fitness center, outdoor fire pit, resort-style swimming pools complete with lounge areas, resident game room, and landscaped courtyard. Tiger Manor, not a student housing project in its inception, but serving as one now, features amenities and services directed at the student population, such as a dedicated study room with complimentary WiFi and complimentary weekday breakfasts during the semester.

The property is co-managed by BH Management Services, LLC.  Tiger Manor is part of Stirling Communities, Stirling Properties’ 657-unit multifamily portfolio. The portfolio comprises apartment units that are mainly student housing for LSU and University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It was started in 2011, when Stirling picked up 370 units in Baton Rouge and Louisiana and continued to expand in 2012, with Tiger Manor’s acquisition. The Stirling Community strategy focuses on value-add acquisitions and the repositioning of underperforming and under-managed properties.

Photo courtesy of Tiger Manor Condominium’s Facebook page

For further market data on Baton Rouge, click here



Lightstone Buys Baton Rouge Hotels for $15.6M

22 May 2013, 2:25 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Lightstone Value Plus Real Estate Investment Trust Inc. (LVPR) recently acquired two Baton Rouge hospitality assets, paying $15.6 million for a Courtyard and Residence Inn—both Marriott-branded hotels. LVPR, a public, non-traded REIT, had been in negotiations with the seller since 2012 and had locked in the acquisition price several months ago, avoiding the currently rising market prices.

“The acquisition contains two well-located premium franchise hotels that were acquired at a substantial discount to replacement cost,” declared LVPR Chairman and CEO David Lichtenstein.

Aiming to profit from improving market recovery indicators, both assets will be repositioned through property improvements. Additionally, the hotels will also be placed under new management within Lightstone’s hospitality division.

Totaling 229 rooms, the franchise hotels are located in close vicinity to each other just off I-10, which connects the Capital City to New Orleans. Both assets are strategically located with regard to major business and employment opportunities of Baton Rouge, such as the Port of Baton Rouge—the tenth largest in the U.S.; Louisiana State University; the recently-constructed Women’s Hospital of Baton Rouge; the 1-million-square foot Industriplex Business Park; and no less than 65 petrochemical facilities.

The 121-key, three-story Courtyard by Marriott comprises 115 rooms and six suites. It features two meeting rooms for a total of 1,000 square feet of meeting space, Wi-Fi throughout the property, a fitness center, heated indoor pool, whirlpool, onsite Bistro signature dining venue, a Starbucks coffee house and onsite parking. The property’s lobby underwent a $3.1 million renovation in 2010.

The 108-key, three-floor Residence Inn by Marriott extended-stay hotel offers amenities such as a full-service business center, 400 square feet of meeting space, Wi-Fi throughout the property, a fitness center, outdoor pool, whirlpool, sport court, barbeque/picnic area and onsite parking. Guest rooms boast fully equipped kitchens. Additionally, guest rooms, meeting rooms and the lobby are expected to undergo renovation work shortly.

Click here for further Baton Rouge market data.

Image courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott Baton Rouge Siegen Lane’s Google+ profile



$17M Hampton Inn & Suites Baton Rouge Downtown Opens

24 Apr 2013, 5:47 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

After experiencing some delay, the 137-key Hampton Inn & Suites Baton Rouge Downtown is finally set to open. Located on the corner of Lafayette and Main Streets, the property will be the third hotel to be built or renovated on Lafayette Street.

The $17 million project was initially set to open in late 2012 but was pushed back to late first quarter of 2013, with May 1, 2013 now set as the final opening date. It joins the Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge Downtown boutique hotel and the 290-key Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center on the Lafayette Street lodging corridor. The latter sold a few months ago for $40 million; click here for further information on the transaction.

Located in the center of the state capital’s central business district, the seven-story hotel offers expansive views of the Mississippi River and the CBD. Amenities include a 24-hour business center, Jump Start Fitness center, three flexible meeting rooms totaling 930 square feet (with the largest room featuring 900 square feet of meeting space), a board room seating 14 and high-speed Wi-Fi throughout. Covered parking will also be available onsite.

The hotel was built by Windsor/Aughtry Co., a commercial real estate developer and brokerage firm headquartered in Greenville, S.C., and Baton Rouge developer Richard Preis. Windsor/Aughtry has previously developed four Hampton Inn & Suites in Gainesville, Fla., Tallahasee, Fla., Greenville, S.C. and Columbia, S.C.

According to wbrz.com, Hampton Inn & Suites Baton Rouge Downtown broke ground in late 2011 and is expected to create 50 new jobs in the area. Financing for the projects was provided by private funds, as well as city-parish loans and tax credits. The Baton Rouge Downtown Development District was also involved in making the project a reality.

For more Baton Rouge market data click here 

Image courtesy of Hampton Inn & Suites Baton Rouge Downtown’s Facebook page



Local Hotel Rebrands; $55M IBM and Residential Complex Being Developed

10 Apr 2013, 4:11 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Magnuson Hotels, one of the top global hotel chains, has announced six formerly
Wyndham franchised hotels converting to the Magnuson Hotels brand. The properties, among them the Magnuson Hotel Baton Rouge, are just the latest in a recent uptick in Wyndham-to-Magnuson hotel franchise conversions ranging from Tyler, Texas to Lansing, Mich.

Located at 9999 Gwenadelle Dr., The Magnuson Hotel Baton Rouge features amenities such as an outdoor pool, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, meeting facilities and complimentary parking including RVs and trucks.

In other news, technology giant IBM recently announced its intention to establish an 800-job technology hub in downtown Baton Rouge dubbed IBM Services Center. The result of a $55 million public-private partnership, the undertaking includes not only an 800-job technology center, but also a major new riverfront development, as well as computer science-related higher education programs.

The 800 IBM jobs will be created over the next four years and will be joined by 542 new indirect jobs spurred by the development, resulting in a 1,342-permanent-job economic impact for the Capital region. The build-out will also create an estimated 600 construction jobs.

The IBM Services Center will be located in a brand new mixed-use riverfront complex to be developed by Commercial Properties Realty Trust (CPRT), a REIT managing and developing the property holdings in the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF).  The project will comprise an office building housing the IBM center and an 11-story residential building containing 95 river-view apartments, joined by nine separate townhomes.

The project will be developed on the old Advocate newspaper site and is expected to complete the first phase, comprising the office component, by spring 2015. It will be followed by the residential element in the summer of 2016. While construction completes, IBM will lease office space in the Essen Centre office complex.

The project will also receive massive financial support from both state ($14.8 million) and local ($3 million) government, as well as $12.7 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, which will cover the total needed amount of $30.5 million for the construction of the office component. This component will be owned by Wilbur Marvin Foundation (WMF), an affiliate of the BRAF. The residential component will look for funding from private investors but will also be an asset of the same foundation.

Image courtesy of the Baton Rouge Downtown Development District



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