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Gulf Coast Housing, Mid City Opens $7.1M Affordable Townhomes Project

29 May 2014, 3:15 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Belt Line Townhomes

The Louisiana Housing Corp. (LHC) recently celebrated the grand opening of the Belt Line Townhomes affordable housing project.

Located along Gayosa Street in Baton Rouge, across from developer Gulf Coast Housing Partnership’s North Street site, the 32-unit project comprises two- and three-bedroom townhomes in a 50-50 percent makeup. Four units are set aside as designated permanent supportive housing.

The project also includes an abandoned 9,000-square-foot warehouse, which was redeveloped into a community center opened for residents as well as the entire mid-city community.

Developed and owned by the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, in partnership with Mid City Redevelopment Alliance the project cost $7.1 million. It benefited from a $1.4 million investment from the Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit. The Unit is a part of the state’s Affordable Rental program, created in the wake of the destruction caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

“This kind of development helps families with lower or modest incomes find safe and sustainable homes that they can afford, while also restoring some of the state’s lost rental stock. The addition of Permanent Supportive Housing units will help renters who need extra assistance to live independently in the community,” said LHC Executive Director Fredrick Tombar III.

In other affordable housing news, the 102-unit Palmer-Northway Apartments in North Baton Rouge is set to undergo a $4.3 million rehabilitation and upgrade, which will reconfigure the development into 92 units of superior quality. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report further work will include a 4,000-square-foot expansion, the addition of an 80-foot privacy fence and gate and the installation of up to 40 security cameras.

Renamed Choctaw Lodge, the project will serve as affordable housing administered through the Louisiana Housing Corp. The project is helmed by Ruston, La.-based Our Plan B Inc. which handled similar projects throughout Louisiana. While renovations will cost $4.3 million, the entire acquisition and rehab will hit the $7.5 million mark, $2.5 million of which will be covered by tax credits and an additional $3 million will be covered via grants. Following its summer 2015 completion, Choctaw Lodge is expected to help reduce crime in the area.

Image via Gulf Coast Housing Partnership



Hotel Market Picks Up in Baton Rouge

15 May 2014, 4:38 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Night view of Baton Rouge from Mississippi River

GTM Hospitality LLC and LIG Assets Inc. (LIGA) have announced the acquisition of the 81-unit Wyndham Baton Rouge Hotel for an undisclosed amount.

The property has a unique financial structure that includes LIG Assets Inc.  Financing for the purchase was provided through The Bancorp Bank, while advisory services were provided through New York-based Meridian Capital.

The property offers easy access to the up-and-coming downtown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University and Tiger Stadium. The hotel benefits from the market’s higher education industry as well as the oil and gas industry and the transient, group and long-term contract business afforded by these .

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, the Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham on Rieger Road was purchase for a little over $5 million by a group of investors operating as LIG Assets Inc. from in Panama City, Fla. While LIGA is based in Dallas, GTM Hospitality is based in Panama City. The Rieger Road Property is one of three Microtel Inn & Suites-branded hotels in Baton Rouge. It offers amenities such as an outdoor pool, grill area and business center.

GTM Hospitality is a fully integrated management and development company, while LIGA is a publicly traded real estate company.  The two entities plan to partner on future acquisitions as well.

In other hospitality news, local real estate developer Mike Wampold is looking to gut and redevelop the 12-story former state office building at 150 N. Third Street into a 146-key hotel, reports The Times-Picayune.  Wampold has applied for state incentives for the project, citing that the average downtown Baton Rouge room rate of $125 per night would not be enough to cover the yet-to-be-disclosed development costs. If approved, construction on the former Louisiana National Bank headquarters would start by the end of the year and finish before 2015 is out, reported The Advocate.

If the State Senate approves the request, a special tax increment financing district dubbed Old LNB Building Redevelopment District would be created around the future hotel. Three other downtown hotels benefited from similar measures.

Downtown Baton Rouge currently has 820 hotel rooms. Wampold’s project, paired with an 89-key Holiday Inn Express set to open in the former Baton Rouge Savings & Loan building by the end of the year, would push that number to 1,000. According to several reports, the additional hotel capacity would result in an increase in convention business.

According to The Times-Picayune’s coverage, Mike Wampold purchased the building for an undisclosed amount in February, after earlier this year the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) paid $10.25 million for it. At the time of the purchase, Wampold had declared that he would place the future development under the ownership of his Milford Wampold Charitable Foundation with all profits feeding into the foundation.

Image credit: getmahesh via Wikimedia Commons



Costco Opens $38M Location, Spurring CRE Activity Nearby

30 Apr 2014, 10:31 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Membership warehouse chain Costco Wholesale Corp. has opened its newest U.S. location. The $38 million, 149,000-square-foot store on Airline Boulevard in Baton Rouge, is the company’s second foray into the Louisiana retail market, after opening a $40 million, 148,000-square-foot store in New Orleans, reports The Times-Picayune.

The new Baton Rouge retail warehouse location includes a bakery, fresh deli, food court, gas station, pharmacy and independent optometrist. As previously reported, the new Costco was developed on 15 of the 28 acres of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant. The 345,000-square-foot bottling facility was demolished, reported 225 Baton Rouge. The demolition was executed by T.D. Farell Construction, the company also in charge of building both the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Costco locations.

According to The Times-Picayune, the new store will employ 250, evenly split between full- and part-time employees. Although generally well received, some controversy surrounded the development, due to Baton Rouge metro council’s approving up to $7.8 million in tax breaks for the project. The New Orleans store received up to $3.3 million in tax breaks to cover site elevation and flood mitigation expenses.

In other retail news, Donnie Jarreau secured a 10,000-square-foot lease contract with Dollar Tree for a new retail development on City Center Plaza on Coursey Boulevard, near the newly opened Costco, reports the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

Dubbed City Center Plaza, the 26,000-square-foot development expects to sign another national brand for its remaining space due to its proximity to Costco and being shadow-anchored by Home Depot. Broker Donnie Jareau is the CEO of Donnie Jarreau Companies, which include Donnie Jarreau Real Estate Inc.

Image courtesy of Costco via Facebook



Cole Capital Buys Office Building for $15.5M; Local Investors Pick Up Shopping Center for $10.5M

16 Apr 2014, 5:15 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Cole Capital has recently heated up the Baton Rouge commercial real estate market with two significant purchases.

Most recently, Cole Corporate Income Trust (CCIT), a public, non-listed REIT investing in necessity corporate properties, has acquired the 125,000-square-foot American Tire Distributors facility, The Advocate reports. CCIT, a program of Cole Capital, purchased the office-warehouse property for $9.3 million from Indianapolis-based Scannell Properties, the asset’s developer.

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, the build-to-suit developer recently completed the asset. It features 4,700 square feet of offices, while the rest of the space is warehouse/industrial.  Scanell purchased the 12-acre site in May 2013 with the intent to develop a space for American Tire Distributors, whose previous 65,000-square-foot  location in a shared a building had grown inadequate.

Cole Capital also purchased the 65,000-square-foot CB&I office building at 2370 Towne Center Boulevard recently. According to The Advocate’s coverage, the Phoenix-based REIT bought the asset from seller Alsation Land Co. Baton Rouge, paying $15.5 million. NAI/Latter & Blum and Colliers International were involved in brokering the deal. The eponymous office building is fully let by CB&I on a long-term lease.

In further commercial news, the 140,000-square-foot Drusilla Shopping Center at Jefferson Highway and Drusilla Lane has been sold for $10.5 million, The Advocate reports. The shopping center was purchased by a group of investors led by Donnie Jarreau from Garry Lewis, who had owned the asset since 1999.  The new owners are set to spend $2 million on renovations and upgrades. The property will also be renamed Drusilla Village with multiple new tenants lined up for the currently 90 percent occupied retail center. Donnie Jarreau Real estate brokered the deal.

Image via Google Maps



Baton Rouge Achieves LEED Silver with $28M The High Grove Luxury Apartments

3 Apr 2014, 6:15 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

New Orleans- and New York-headquartered The Domain Companies has announced the LEED Silver certification of The High Grove, making the 192-unit development the first luxury apartment project in Baton Rouge to achieve such a status.

“From day one, we’ve been dedicated to bringing green, sustainable design and construction to The High Grove,” says Chris Papamichael, co-founder of The Domain Companies. “LEED Silver Certification means energy and cost savings for our residents, recognition for the larger Baton Rouge community, and a reduced impact to the environment.

Green features at The High Grove, include solar panels that cover 15 to 20 percent of the community’s energy needs, Energy Star appliances, water efficient fixtures, 90 percent efficiency hot water heaters, reflective roof materials to reduce the heat island effect, 14.5 SEER AC systems, water-conservative landscaping. Special attention was accorded to indoor air quality. Overall, the environmentally conscious features make The High Grove 22 percent more energy efficient than comparable buildings and account for three percent of the $28 million construction budget.

According to Papamichael the local population has proven very receptive to green community.

“The Baton Rouge market understands the benefits LEED Silver Certification provides, both to the bottom line and to the environment as a whole,” he tells MHN, adding that Domain’s hope is that The High Grove will serve as an example for future residential projects.

The success of the community, expected to be fully leased by late May, paired with the surging economy of Louisiana, has prompted Domain to plan further investments in the Baton Rouge market.

“Domain is very excited about the opportunities in Baton Rouge, and specifically within The Grove, a 119-acre master-planned Traditional Neighborhood Development. We’re currently planning our next phase at The Grove, which we believe will further the success we’ve achieved with The High Grove and within the Baton Rouge marketplace,” Papamichael says.

Located in The Grove, across from the Mall of Louisiana, The High Grove comprises one- and two-bedroom apartments, live/work spaces and 25,000 square feet of retail space dubbed The Boutiques at The High Grove.  Developed by The Domain Companies, the community was built by general contractor ICI Construction of Dallas. Also from Dallas was project architect Humphreys and Partners as well as Oak Grove Capital, which provided a $23 million loan for the project through HUD’s 221D4 program, while the remaining $5 million was covered by private equity.

Amenities at luxury community include, among many, a resort-style pool,  indoor and outdoor fireplaces, fitness center, yoga studio, cybercafé,  chef’s kitchen, game room with Wii, a Building Link system that notifies residents of packages, dry cleaning, and valet services as well as a unique “MyDomain” social media-based platform for online rent payment, maintenance requests, home design services, residents’ event calendar and a discount card for a bevy of local businesses. The community is also adjacent to a new public bike path set to finish soon. Apartment amenities include everything from granite countertops and high-end appliances to walk-in closets and full-size washer and dryers. Rents start at $1,025 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,495 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The retail component of The High Grove is pedestrian friendly, featuring wide sidewalks and outdoor seating. Initial tenants include Woodhouse Spa and Open Barre fitness center, with additional food/beverage and services retailers expected to move in throughout 2014.

As previously reported by MHN, the community started welcoming its first residents in October 2013. The Domain Companies is also developing the $200 million South Market mixed-use residential retail project in downtown New Orleans (details here).

Images courtesy of The Domain Companies



Investors Buy Condominiums; Housing Authority Embarks on Renovation

24 Mar 2014, 5:26 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Roosevelt Terrace apartments, a 44-year-old low-income housing complex under the ownership of the East Baton Rouge (EBR) Housing Authority, will soon kick off renovations worth $3.67 million, reports the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.  The project is being handled by Partners for Progress, the not-for-profit subsidiary of the EBR Housing Authority and is set to kick off in April.

The project will update amenities, reconfigure the 50-unit housing complex to feature 40 larger units and raise a wrought iron fence. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report 20 one-bedroom units will be turned into ten three-bedroomers, 20 two-bedroom apartments will be reconfigured into 20 one-bedroom apartments, while ten three-bedroom units will be converted into ten two-bedroom residences. Currently Roosevelt Terrace consist of nine two-story frame and brick veneer townhouse structures and an administration and maintenance building that also houses the laundry facilities. The apartment community is located on a two-acre site at 1225 Roosevelt St.

In other residential news, The Advocate reported that a group of investors purchased 33 condominiums in The Jeffersonian for $1.9 million from IberiaBank. Buyer K B K Real Estate plans to do some light renovation, such as new paint, on the former apartment building. Major work isn’t necessary as the 38-unit property underwent a more comprehensive renovation prior to being converted. Currently all units are being rented at $775 for a one-bedroom residence and $850 for a two-bedroom unit. The new owners plan to keep current rental rates.

Built around 40 years ago, the 38-unit Jeffersonian was converted from apartments to condominiums prior to the Great Recession, following which it ended up under bank ownership.

Image via the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority



Colab Space The Creative Block Kicks Off Construction in Downtown Baton Rouge

7 Mar 2014, 1:18 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The revitalization of downtown Baton Rouge continues with a trendy new spot: The Creative Bloc, an 11,500-square-foot collaborative workspace and multimedia production hub. The project, located at North Eighth and Main Street, recently started construction, helmed by businessman John Jackson and developer Fitch Development.

“The rehabilitation of these three historic buildings along with the recent construction of the Hampton Inn and the on-going construction of the IBM buildings, will revitalize Main Street again as a central corridor in downtown Baton Rouge,” says developer Derek Fitch.

The Creative Bloc consists of three consolidated historic commercial buildings dating from the 1930s and 1950s that sat vacant and blighted for a considerable time. They were purchased in January 2013 by Jackson Group Investments, an affiliate of video production company Launch Media, both owned by John Jackson. Upon completion of The Creative Block, Launch Media will relocate its headquarters and all ten employees from Celtic Media Center, while keeping 3,700 square feet of colab space for leasing, reported The Times-Picayune.

The development will comprise work and office spaces as well as multimedia facilities such as post-production suites, fully equipped sound and video production studio and media server. The project is targeting visual media and creative professionals and companies. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, two to three companies with less than ten employees would be able to lease space next to Launch Media. A further ten workstations will be available for independent professionals, to be leased on a yearly, monthly or hourly basis.  A membership program with a maximum of 15 spots will be available for professionals who need sporadic access to downtown office space and amenities.

Although the cost and financing structure of the development has yet to be released, Launch Media did announce that the adaptive reuse project will be receiving federal and state historic preservation tax credits. Which presented project architects Tipton Associates with a special task: “Our goal has been to retain the historic character of the buildings while embedding within the required modern technological amenities”, declared Ken Tipton, principal.

Renderings courtesy of Tipton Associates and Launch Media 



$29M Digital Media Center Dedicated at LSU; Charter School Buys New HQ Building for $1.6M

26 Feb 2014, 3:54 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Gov. Bobby Jindal, EA Executive Bryan Neider and LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander officially dedicate the LSU Digital Media Center

The Louisiana digital technology sector celebrated yet another boost with the official dedication of the Louisiana Digital Media Center in Baton Rouge. The $29.3 million project, located on Louisiana State University’s (LSU) Main Campus, now provides 94,000 square feet of high tech space, housing both commercial and education tenants.  The $26.3 million in construction funding was provided by State of Louisiana capital outlay dollars, with an additional $3 million infrastructure grant made available by the U.S Economic Development Authority.

LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology (CCT) and LSU’s Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research (AVATAR) program represent the facility’s university tenants.  The CCT will house about 190 faculty, staff and students, providing state-of-the-art audio-visual teaching facilities supporting LSU’s digital media and software development research on 50,000 square feet of space. The AVATAR initiative brings in an additional 200 students per week to the Digital Media Center.

The project’s main commercial tenant is Electronic Arts Inc. (EA). The company set up its North American Test Center (NATC) in the facility, taking up 30,000 square feet of space. EA’s initial plans of creating 220 full- and part-time jobs with an annual payroll of $5.7 million have been exceeded and the company plans to grow into the 400 to 600 job range.

In other education news, online charter school Louisiana Connections Academy (LCA) has purchased the Parkview Office Building on Jamestown Ave., where it plans to relocate its operations, reports The Advocate. Operating under the name Friends of Louisiana Connections Academy, the charter school’s board acquired the 80 percent occupied office building for $1.6 million from Abdul and Maimoona Khan. LCA will take up residence on fourth floor, which will provide about 8,000 square feet.

Image courtesy of Louisiana State University



LSU College of Engineering Exceeds $100M Funding Goal, Gears Up for $350KSF Overhaul

12 Feb 2014, 7:13 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Gov. Bobby Jindal with LSU College of Engineering students

The Louisiana State University (LSU) College of Engineering has announced the successful completion of the Breaking New Ground capital campaign, wrapping up three months ahead of schedule and 5 percent above its targeted funding goal, with $52.5 million raised from 450 individual and corporate donors. The raised capital will be put towards covering LSU’s share of a $100 million public-private partnership set to renovate the College of Engineering’s Patrick F. Taylor Hall, as well as expand teaching facilities with a brand new chemical engineering building, as previously reported by Commercial Property Executive.

The project is a result of a booming demand for engineering jobs in Louisiana. According to LSU’s data, engineering and construction management jobs in Louisiana are expected to grow by 40 percent between 2010 and 2020, numbers that are reflected in LSU’s College of Engineering enrollment, which grew by 41 percent between 2008 and 2012. Upon completion, 1,150 engineers, construction managers and computer scientists are expected to graduate from the school annually.

Patrick F. Taylor Hall rendering

Construction will kick off in the fall off of 2014 with groundbreaking on the new chemical engineering building, which is expected to complete in June 2016. The adjacent Patrick F. Taylor Hall will start renovation and expansion in July 2015 and complete by October 2017. The project will affect 350,000 square feet of academic space, 90,000 square feet of which is represented by newly constructed teaching and research space. Global architecture and design firm Perkins + Will and Baton Rouge-based Coleman Partners Architects LLC have been selected to overhaul the engineering campus, which will boast an academic support center, dedicated capstone project space and graduate student space and expanded, up-to-date laboratory space, among others.

Twenty-two private companies, such as Dow, Entergy and BASF contributed to the fundraising – 20 of them donating over the $1 million mark. Some of the most notable donations included a $5 million pledge from Turner industries and a $15 million donation from Phyllis Taylor. The state’s $50 million contribution will be provided from state capital outlay funds. As announced by Gov. Bobby Jindal in October 2012, the state will also match all private donations dollar for dollar above the $50 million mark.

Images courtesy of LSU College of Engineering



94-Unit Apartment Asset Sold to California Hedge Fund; 440 on Third Starts Construction

15 Jan 2014, 7:39 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Black Warrior LLC has sold Newport Villa Apartments, a 94-unit apartment complex located on La Annie Drive, north of Florida Boulevard, cashing in $1.2 million or $12,765 per unit for the asset, according to a report by Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. CJ Johnson of 3Chix Realty represented both the seller and the buyer, a California-based hedge fund operating as Newport Holdings LLC. Originally listed for $1.8 million, the 90 percent occupied property had four interested buyers within a month of going on the market.

Newport Apartments underwent some capital outlay rehab work prior to going up for sale. The seller has only recently picked up the property from a bank. The complex reportedly had management issues and reverted to bank ownership due to non-payment. After acquisition, Black Warrior contracted Reliant Property Management, which specializes in streamlining distressed assets. The company quickly smoothed out previous issues and the asset is now projecting a 14 percent cap rate—double what similar assets boast.

In other multifamily news, preliminary construction work has kicked off at the 440 on Third, one of the most anticipated projects in Baton Rouge, reports The Times-Picayune. The eight-story building will first undergo internal demolition such as knocking out some of its internal walls. Some of the demolition byproducts will be reused, as the project is targeting LEED certification. The former office building is to be transformed into a mixed-use development featuring 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments with amenities such as an outdoor pool and deck, a 15,000-square-foot Matherne’s Supermarket grocery store (downtown Capital City’s first grocery store in 50 years), 50,000 square feet of office space and more than 100 parking spaces. DNA Workshop (Dyke Nelson Architecture LLC) is acting as developer and architecture company, while Buquet & LeBlanc Inc. is general contractor. The asset was purchased in mid-2013 for $4.3 million by a group of local investors headed by David Weinstein, a Baton Rouge financial adviser at Merril Lynch and Dyke Nelson, owner of DNA Workshop. The grocery store will open during fall 2014, while the residential component is expected for January 2015.

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Image courtesy of the Downtown Development District