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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.

Click here for further Baton Rouge market data

Image courtesy of the Downtown Development District


$21M Shopping Center Sale and Downtown Grocery Store Announcement Heat Up Baton Rouge Retail Market

20 Dec 2013, 10:19 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Shopping center sales, new retail developments, including a downtown option – Baton Rouge has recently seen them all.

Probably one of the most exciting announcements came from the Downtown Development District, touting, that for the first time in over half a century, Downtown Baton Rouge will feature a grocery store. With recent developments in the Capital City’s urban core, especially multifamily developments going up and/or replacing derelict office buildings, the search for a downtown grocer has been on for quite a while.

Cue the Matherne family, who has announced a 15,000-square-foot full-service supermarket for the first floor of the former Capital One building. Construction is slated to start within a few weeks’ time. Upon completion, the supermarket will offer fresh produce, fine wines and cheeses and a deli, among others.  The eight-story former office building, now renamed 440 Third Street is currently being redeveloped by the Matherne family. The mixed-use project will feature 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, 50,000 square feet of office space and more than 100 parking spaces.

In other retail news, The Advocate announced the sale of the Bluebonnet Parc Shopping Center for $21.3 million. The shopping center adjacent to the Mall of Louisiana was sold by RPAI Baton Rouge LLC, an affiliate of national self-managed REIT Retail Properties of America Inc. to Cincinnati-based Viking Partners’ Fund II. The approximately 135,000-square-foot retail center could get a 15,000-square-foot expansion. A bevy of new tenants are also expected, as several major tenants, such as Cost Plus World Market and Vanguard College of Cosmetology are expected to relocate in 2014.

In further news, Belk Inc. has announced plans to establish a 75,000-square-foot store in the Juban Crossing shopping center in Livingston Parish, according to a report in the Charlotte Business Journal. Construction on the $7 million store is expected to kick off in February and complete in fall 2014.

Click here for further Baton Rouge Market data

Rendering courtesy of Juban Crosing via Facebook and the Downtown Development District


Stirling Properties Expands Holdings in United Plaza Office Park

5 Dec 2013, 12:12 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Stirling Properties has led a group of local investors in purchasing United Plaza VIII, a three-story Class A office building located in the United Plaza Office Park in Baton Rouge, La. Operating as Stirling Eight United Plaza LLC, the Stirling-led investment group, represented by Stirling Sales and Leasing Executive Scott Macdonald picked up the property from Wink United Plaza LLC in late November. The seller was represented by Branon Pesnell of Beaux Box, a Louisiana-based commercial real estate firm. The 52,606-square-foot office building is currently 91 percent leased. Stirling Properties has announced it will exclusively lease and manage the new asset.

United Plaza VIII is Stirling’s fourth asset in the office park. The company also owns United Plaza I, II and XII, totaling more than 500,000 square feet. Combined with the newest purchase, the company’s United Plaza Office Park holdings boast an overall occupancy rate of 97 percent and are exclusively managed and leased by Stirling Properties.  Executive Vice President of Stirling Propertie,s Grady Brame, described the purchase as a “tremendous opportunity” in a strong performing market, adding that “the acquisition … is an excellent investment … and demonstrates Stirling’s commitment to Baton Rouge and our belief in the area’s future growth.”

The acquisition price has not been disclosed. However, The Advocate reports that the purchase price included assuming two existing loans as well as other considerations. The same source also identified Willbros Engineering as the primary tenant of United Plaza VIII.  Stirling plans to rearrange the locations of certain tenants within the buildings it owns onsite.

For further Baton Rouge market data, click here

Image courtesy of Stirling Properties

Landmark Properties to Develop $50M Student Luxury Housing

20 Nov 2013, 11:58 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

There’s more luxury student housing on its way to Baton Rouge. Athens, Ga.-based Landmark Properties has received the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval—the last OK needed—to develop its $50 million luxury multifamily property near the LSU campus, according to a report by The Advocate.  The 274-unit luxury property, dubbed The Standard at Baton Rouge, is expected to break ground in the spring and could open in August 2014.

Upscale amenities will abound at the property, including a rooftop pool, three interior courtyards and onsite parking. Although most area residents and businesses welcome the project, developers have expresses their desire to address the concerns of reluctant residents.

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, The Standard will be developed on a 4.5-acre block bounded by West Chimes, Alaska, Aster and Iowa streets, right on the edge of Louisiana State University’s campus and Nicholson Drive and its planned overhaul (read more about it here).

The 750,685-square-foot project includes a six-story parking garage, five-story apartment building, 1,000-square-foot leasing office as well as a ground-level pool, in addition to the rooftop pool. The Standard will comprise 36 one-bedroom units, 81 two-bedroom bedroom units, 33 three-bedroom units, 80 units with four bedrooms and 44 five-bedroom units.

The Standard of Athens (Athens, Georgia)

According to The Times-Picayune, Williams and Associates is representing Landmark. The company, also based in Athens, Ga. offers civil engineering, surveying, economic development, planning and landscaping and development consultation services and is heavily involved in the development of a similar projects including The Standard of Athens, near the University of Georgia.  The Standard of Athens comprises 190 units totaling 610 beds and amenities such as a clubhouse, fitness center, infinity rooftop pool and outdoor community spaces.

For further Baton Rouge market data, click here

Image credits: Williams and Associates

$28M Luxury Housing Opens in Baton Rouge

10 Oct 2013, 7:55 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The High Grove, the first mixed-use, environmentally sustainable, transit-oriented development in Baton Rouge is going live.

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, residents have started moving into the first building at the $28 million luxury residential-retail project located near the Mall of Louisiana, off I-10.  The second building is expected to be complete in November.

The 192-unit project comprises one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments ranging between 681 and 1,119 square feet. Rents range between $1,055 and $1,725. The community’s apartments feature high-end amenities such as stainless steel kitchen appliances, granite counter tops, hardwood cabinets and washer and dryer, while community amenities include a private garage and carports, resorts-style outdoor amenity area with pool, soaking deck, fireplace, as well as an outdoor kitchen with grilling station, outdoor covered lounge and media area, indoors gaming lounge complete with entertainment center, billiards, foosball, card table, a fitness center, yoga and Pilates studio, resident lounge with media center, kitchen and espresso bar as well as a cyber café, complete with printing station.

The High Grove is targeting a LEED Silver certification. Its green features include Energy Star-rated lighting and appliances, high-efficiency HVAC systems, low-flow water fixtures as well as solar panels mounted atop garages, which will cut energy consumption by 30 percent, according to The Advocate’s coverage. The High Grove’s ground floors feature 25,330 square feet of upscale boutique retail, and about one-fifth of that commercial space has already been taken up by a spa and a boutique fitness studio. The first phase of The High Grove was expected to open earlier this year, in May.

According to property.com, financing for the project breaks down to $5 million in private equity and $23 million through a HUD 221(d)4 loan, arranged by Oak grove Capital in Dallas. The project also benefits from federal solar tax credits.

Developed by The Domain Cos., the company behind the $200 million South Market mixed-use residential-retail project in downtown New Orleans (read more about the project here), The High Grove is part of the 118-acre The Grove traditional neighborhood development (TND). First of its kind in Baton Rouge, the project is spearheaded by Carmouche Development, a local company well-versed in the TND and master-planned community game. When complete, the TND will include luxury rental housing, senior housing, for-sale single family homes, a full-service hotel, office space, cafes and restaurants and a bevy of retail outlets and specialty shops. An excess of 44 acres of The Grove will be comprised of parks and pathways connecting to BREC’s Capital Area Pathways Project.

For further Baton Rouge market data click here

Image courtesy of The High Grove via Facebook 


$55M IBM Project Holds Groundbreaking; Shell Teases $12.5B GTL Facility

26 Sep 2013, 6:19 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Prior to the groundbreaking of IBM’s 800-job Baton Rouge project, the Louisiana Governor’s Office announced the selection of Ascension Parish as the potential site for a 740-job Shell facility.

According to the Governor’s Office, the Mississippi shores near Sorrento, La. could be the location of a Shell natural gas to liquids (GTL) facility if site evaluation and preliminary engineering studies yield positive results.

The facility would be one of the first GTL sites built on a commercial scale in the US. If it gets a green light, the project would cost about $12.5 billion, create 740 direct jobs that would pay an average of $100,000 plus benefits, as well as 3,900 indirect jobs, and at peak development activity could generate 10,000 construction jobs. The construction period and first 15 years of activity would have a $77.6 billion economic impact.

Shell would cover the $32 million worth of road improvements necessary for the facility and would also be eligible for a full refund by the state if the facility is developed.

Improvements are expected to be completed by 2016, which includes construction and development of new roads, as well as lane expansions of portions of Louisiana Highways 22 and 70. Other incentives include a $112 million performance-based grant for land acquisition and infrastructure expenses, access to LED FastStart, Louisiana’s chart-topping workforce training program.

With regards to the IBM Services Center, the project is set for a September 26 ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony, according to a report by The Advocate.

As reported by CPE earlier this year, the $55 million riverfront project will be developed in two phases. The first comprises a $30.5 million, eight-story office building, set to finish by spring 2015, while a second residential element, set to complete by the summer of 2016, consists of a 95-unit 11-story apartment tower and nine townhomes.

The Advocate reports the acquisition of the project site, incidentally the former location of The Advocate’s offices, has just closed. Lafayette Street Holdings, a company under the control of the nonprofit Wilbur Marvin Foundation, which handles real estate assets of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, paid $4.1 million for the asset.

The IBM Services Center is Louisiana’s largest software development project to date.

Rendering courtesy of the Baton Rouge Downtown Development District

LSU Health Baton Rouge Opens New Urgent Care in Capital Region

11 Sep 2013, 10:57 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

A new urgent care medical facility is available for residents of the Capital Region. Located on Airline Highway in North Baton Rouge, the new LSU Health Baton Rouge Urgent Care Center in North Baton Rouge has opened for patients as an alternative to hospital emergency rooms.

LSU’s urgent care services have been housed at a temporary location since its inception in April 2013, and the new location represents a space increase of 6,965 square feet.

Urgent care centers offer round-the-clock medical care for minor injuries and illness, which helps to minimize patient load at hospital emergency rooms.

The Airline Highway location is part of LSU Health Baton Rouge, a division of Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) Regional Medical Center, operated by a partnership with Louisiana State University, which was created as a substitute to replacing the outdated Earl K. Long facility’s clinic services. The program is comprised of five clinics and pharmacy services and is also part of Louisiana’s historic public-private hospital partnership system.

The new urgent care facility and partnership with LSU allowed OLOL to expand its emergency room, earning it Level II Trauma Center status, which is the only such facility in the Capital Region.

According to a news release OLOL is now working towards earning a Level I Trauma Center accreditation. The facility features new amenities, such as a special procedures room, increased point-of-care testing space and digital x-ray.

This is not the only expansion for OLOL. The medical center is now the clinical site for LSU’s Baton Rouge-based physician training and graduate medical education programs, which hosts 190 residents per month and is set to increase.

Furthermore, OLOL is set to open its 120-bed Heart and Vascular Tower this fall on the main OLOL medical campus on Essen Lane.

The 330,000-square-foot, nine-story facility will be the main provider of an expansive range of cardiovascular services in the Baton Rouge area. It will feature state-of-the-art technology, open spaces, large windows, and visitor and seating areas with above-average comfort.

Also set for a fall 2013 opening is OLOL’s $19 million medical educational building that will house a simulation and innovation center equipped with groundbreaking technology, conference rooms and LSU faculty offices.

Image courtesy of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center via Facebook


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