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Whole Foods Market Opens in Mid-City

11 Feb 2014, 2:43 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Whole Foods Market, the natural and organic food retailer, expanded its New Orleans presence by opening a location on the corner of Broad and Bienville streets. The 25,000-square-foot store represents a major step toward revitalizing the Broad Street corridor, as the company redeveloped a long-blighted property, once home to a Robert’s Fresh Market and a Schwegmann’s supermarket. The new store retains the original terrazzo floor and reuses lettering from the old store sign, reclaimed graffiti art and pallet wood as design features. Further eco-friendly features include electric vehicle charging and bike fix-it stations. The location will sell 330 local grocery products, as well as local art. Healthy eating classes and events will be hold both on-site and throughout the community.

The $14 million grocery store has created 125 new full-time jobs, 74 percent of which are currently occupied by Orleans Parish residents. The city’s JOB1 Business and Career Solutions and the Office of Workforce Development assisted the retailer with recruiting events, hiring and training services, in an effort to ensure that new employees were sourced from the local workforce pool.

Whole Foods Broad Street is part of the 60,000-square-foot ReFresh project, which aims to be an economic and community anchor for the Broad Street neighborhoods, while also providing a high-quality fresh food source for a historically underserved area of the city. When completed, the mixed-use development will also house Liberty’s Kitchen, Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and FirstLine Schools, as well as the headquarters of Broad Community Connections, the developer of ReFresh. Not-for-profit Broad Community Connections is focused on revitalizing the Broad Street corridor, stretching from Tulane Avenue to Bayou Road.

The new Whole Foods location and ReFresh are part of the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI), a $14 million program offering low-cost, flexible financing to retailers who renovate, expand or open stores that sell fresh groceries in the city’s low-income food deserts. As such, ReFresh received a $1 million loan from the FFRI, half of which is forgivable, similar to the newly reopened landmark Circle Food Store in the Seventh Ward (more on that story here).  ReFresh also received a $900,000 award through the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s (NORA) Commercial Corridor Revitalization Program.

Whole Foods is celebrating the opening by donating 1 percent of its five-day New Orleans net sales to New Orleans nonprofits.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.

Images courtesy of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office.

Kingfish Picks Up 133 KSF Kenner Office Building Near $826M Airport Expansion Site

4 Feb 2014, 6:44 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

2400 Veterans Boulevard

Kingfish Development II LLC, a real estate management and development company focused on the Gulf South office market, has announced the purchase of the former Rault Office Building in Kenner, La., for an undisclosed sum. The 133,312-square-foot office building at 2400 Veterans
Blvd. is the only Class A office space in Kenner, a submarket of Metro New Orleans. Parking for 456 cars, divided into an adjacent parking garage and two parking areas, was also included in the deal.

Built in 1982, the five-story, glass-façade office building will undergo a comprehensive renovation to both common areas and tenant space. Work is expected to wrap up in 2014. Leasing will be handled by Max J. Derbes Inc. CCIM Joe Gorman. Although a press release announcing the property’s purchase by Kingfish touted an 80 percent occupation rate and only 25,000 square feet of vacancy, according to the Max. J. Derbes website, a total of 35,905 square feet of space, or roughly 27 percent, was up for grabs a week after the purchase. Annual rental rates range between $18.5 and $19.50 per square foot.

Arial view rendering of the new North Terminal at New Orleans International Airport

The purchase of 2400 Veterans Blvd. could prove extremely profitable for Kingfish, as the property is located just one mile from New Orleans Airport, set to undergo an $826 million renovation and expansion process, designs for which have recently been released.  According to data provided by the city of New Orleans mayor’s office, the project includes a brand-new 650,000-square-foot, two-concourse, 30-gate airport terminal featuring 2,000 parking garage spaces. The project also includes a $72 million power plant and a $17 million on-site hotel. Currently named the North Terminal, its design is signed by Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli, Manning Architects, Crescent City Aviation Team and Leo A. Daly/Atkins. Targeted for a 2018 completion, the North Terminal is expected to create 13,000 construction jobs and a $1.7 billion construction economic impact, as well as retain and expand the existing 12,471 jobs on-site and an annual $3.2 billion economic impact on tourism.

Images courtesy of City of New Orleans Mayor’s Office via Facebook and Max J. Derbes

Circle Food Store, Magnolia Marketplace to Curb NOLA’s Retail Shortage

28 Jan 2014, 5:47 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Circle Food Store

One of the most highly anticipated retail openings in the Crescent City is the return of the Circle Food Store in the Seventh Ward. The historic grocery market, first opened in 1938, was the city’s first African-American owned and operated grocery store, not only offering a retail option to the community but also becoming a neighborhood meeting hub. The historic market had suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Katrina and remained shuttered until recently, opening thanks to a comprehensive $8 million renovation.

The renovation project was designed by John C. Williams Architects and executed by general contractor the McDonnel Group. Financing was assembled from a $2.2 million Historic Tax Credit, along with $2.2 million in New Market Tax equity, $1.7 million from First NBC Bank, a $1 million “PROP” loan from the Louisiana Office of Community Development, a $100,000 Economic Development Fund grant from the city, as well as a $1 million Fresh Food Retailer Initiative loan, of which $500,000 is forgivable. The Berger Co. advised store owner Dwayne Boudreaux throughout the financing assembly process, while the city helped out in the permitting, recruiting, hiring and training process. The store now employs 65 people, 95 percent of which are New Orleanais.

Groundbreaking at Magnolia Marketplace

Located at the intersection of South Claiborne Avenue and Toledano Street in Central City, the $24.4 million Magnolia Marketplace is also a much anticipated retail project, especially for the underserved Central City neighborhood. The 106,000-square-foot project, helmed by Stirling Properties and developed in a joint venture with JCH Development, will rise on a six-acre special economic development district, governed by the New Orleans City Council, which approved it in October 2013. Serving exclusively Magnolia Marketplace, the district levies a special 1 percent sales tax that will finance as much as $2.3 million in select extraordinary flood elevation, public infrastructure and financing costs. Development will create approximately 344 construction jobs and 217 permanent positions upon completion.

The project’s first phase, totaling 6,000 square feet, is complete with a Capital One Bank location operational on site. Tenants such as T-Mobile and Subway are slated for an early 2014 opening, while major-footprint tenants such as T.J. Maxx, Ross Dress For Less, PetSmart, Shoe Carnival and Raising Cane’s are scheduled to open in spring 2015. (Details on Magnolia Marketplace available here.)

Photos courtesy of the New Orleans Mayor’s Office

Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel Sold for $116M, While Royal St. Charles Goes for $10M

14 Jan 2014, 3:37 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel

Two French Quarter hotels have been traded since 2014 kicked off, showing how sizzling hot the New Orleans hospitality market is.

According to Canal Street Beat, Starwood Capital Group shelled out $116.6 million for the 693-key Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel. The property was acquired from LNR Partners, special servicer for its $73.4 million CMBS loan from 2005. The property, appraised at of $108 million roughly six months ago, spent some time on the market in 2013 but was withdrawn after no buyers emerged. Prior to being put up for sale again, the asset was renovated. The property, currently operated by Intercontinental Hotels Group on a short-term lease, used to be made up of two distinct hotels: the 191-room Alexa tower, built in 1900 and redeveloped in 2002, and the 502-key Astor Crowne Plaza, developed in 2002 by Decatur Hotels, a previous owner of both assets.

Located on the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets, the 693-key hotel is right in the heart of the French Quarter, a highly desirable location. It boasts 12,000 square feet of grade-level retail space and 32,000 square feet of meeting space in 13 meeting rooms, with the Astor Ballroom offering 5,733 square feet. Further amenities include a fitness center, outdoor pool, business center, 24-hour lounge and onsite restaurant: the Dickie Brennan-run Bourbon House Restaurant.

In other hospitality news, the 143-key Royal St. Charles has also been sold, picked up by Lowe Enterprises Investors (LEI) on behalf of an investment client.  The property was put under the management of Destination Hotels & Resorts, but will continue to operate as an independent boutique hotel. According to Canal Street Beat, the property was acquired from California-based investment group Clearview Capital for $10.1 million, a price that included the assumption of an $8.7 million loan from U.S. Bank.

Located at 135 St. Charles St., between the French Quarter and the New Orleans Convention Center, the 10-story hotel was previously the Southern Federal Savings Bank. According to a news release, the hotel was converted from office to hotel in 2000, but its original bank vault was kept intact. The Royal St. Charles most recently underwent a renovation in 2012, when 2,610 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center as well as an award-winning PJ’s Coffee & Café were added.  Other amenities include a fitness center, valet parking and easy access to the St. Charles Streetcar Line.

Image courtesy of Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel – New Orleans via Facebook

Walker & Dunlop Arranges $43.5M Financing for Esplanade at City Park

30 Dec 2013, 6:44 am

By Gabriel Circiog, Associate Editor

Walker & Dunlop Inc. recently announced it provided $43.5 million for Esplanade at City Park, an apartment community located in New Orleans.

The 10-year, five-year interest-only acquisition loan was structured by Walker & Dunlop Senior Vice President Stephen Farnsworth through German American Capital Corp. for longtime borrower Priderock Capital Partners.

Commenting on the financing, Farnsworth said in a statement: “This financing is indicative of the recent growth of the CMBS market nationwide, resulting in Walker & Dunlop’s ability to structure loans with higher interest-only periods for borrowers. The transaction also demonstrates the continued development of the multifamily market in New Orleans and the increased demand for out-of-state institutional equity. As a native New Orleans resident, I am proud to have contributed to financing Esplanade at City Park, one of the most iconic apartment communities in the city.”

Located in the picturesque Mid-City area of New Orleans at 3443 Esplanade Ave., the Esplanade at City Park was built in 1973 and renovated between 2008 and 2010.The property offers 436 residential units and four commercial spaces. With floor plans ranging from 510-square-foot studios to 1,485-square-foot three-bedroom apartments, prices range from $995 to $2,555. The building features a prominent seven-story façade facing the scenic Bayou St. John waterway and overlooks the historic City Park. The property also benefits from being close to the new medical district, which includes the new Veterans Affairs facility and University Medical Center.

Esplanade at City Park features numerous amenities, including covered parking, a movie theater, a gaming room, a fitness center, a yoga/pilates room and a cabana room.

Stirling Properties Announces New Tenants, Expansions at Metro NOLA Developments

16 Dec 2013, 9:38 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Joint venture partners Stirling Properties and CBL & Associates Properties Inc. have announced four new tenants for Phase I of Fremaux Town Center in Slidell. Verizon Wireless, Mattress Direct, LA Nails Spa and Anna’s Linens will be joining Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, T.J. Maxx and Michaels at the 350,000-square-foot Phase I. According to a press release, construction on the Fremaux’s first phase is on schedule, with the retail hub expected to open in March 2014.

The joint venture recently sold 1.13 acres at the Fremaux site to Panera Bread’s owners at a rate of $19 per square foot.  Panera’s Fremaux location is expected to open in April 2013.

As previously reported by Commercial Property Executive, the Fremaux Town Center is being developed by national retail REIT CBL & Associates Properties and Covington, La.-based Stirling Properties in a 65/35 joint venture. The 80-acre development along I-10 will consist of a 330,000-square-foot first phase opening in March 2014 and a 320,000-square-foot Phase II set for a spring 2015 opening.

Stirling Properties also announced a 9,000-square-foot expansion for the River Chase Shopping Center. The expansion, which has already broken ground, will consist of a two-tenant building, set to open in summer 2014. Tenants include regional luxury spa and salon services operator Bellagio Salon Spa and national specialty retailer Men’s Warehouse, which will expand to 5,000 square feet from its current 1,400-square-foot footprint at River Chase.

Located in Covington, River Chase Shopping Center is a multi-phase mixed-use development on a 253-acre site.  Initially known as Stirling Covington, Phase I opened in 2004 as a shopping center anchored by Target, Belk Department Store and Regal Cinemas. It has now become a master-planned mixed-use development featuring retail, entertainment and a 240-unit multifamily development. Further retail expansion is expected, as well as a 96-key Holiday Inn Express set for a February 2014 opening. In addition, 600,000 square feet of Class A office space is in the works, with a 157,400-square-foot office building expected for a spring 2014 delivery.

Image credits: River-Chase.com

Columbia Residential Opens $24M Luxury Seniors Housing

10 Dec 2013, 9:54 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Heritage Senior Residences at Columbia Parc, one of the most highly anticipated projects in New Orleans, has celebrated its grand opening in Gentilly, with the first residents expected to move in starting March 2014.

Located within the Columbia Parc at the Bayou District master-planned community, the 120-unit luxury senior residence boasts community amenities such as a 30-seat movie theater, fully equipped fitness center complete with Wii room, community room kitchen, dining and dance hall, resident’s business center complete with computers and printers, craft room, interior mail room, on-site maintenance, management and leasing office, access controlled parking, garden patio surrounding a porte cochere as well as elevators. The LEED Platinum-certified community features rooftop solar panels, among several sustainable elements.

The 1401 Caton St. project comprises one- and two-bedroom apartments outfitted with energy efficient stainless steel appliances, Energy Star washer and dryer and granite countertops. The senior living community is located on public transport routes and will be within walking distance of a community park as well as a retail area.  Residents must be 62 and older.

The senior living community as well as the entire Columbia Parc at the Bayou District project is owned and managed by Atlanta-based Columbia Residential and its subsidiary Columbia Residential Management, a developer, owner and manager of quality affordable and mixed-income housing that often engages local authorities and not-for-profits when creating new communities. According to WWL-TV.com, the senior housing project had a price-tag of $24 million. According to the Times-Picayune, the tenant mix for Heritage Senior Residences, as well as the entire master-planned community, includes market-rate, affordable, low-income and public housing tenants.

Columbia Parc at the Bayou District is being developed on the former site of the Katrina-marred St. Bernard public housing project, by the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), local non-profit Bayou District, Atlanta-based non-profit consulting firm Purpose Built Communities and Columbia Residential.

According to The Times-Picayune, the goal of the project is to create a cradle-to-college community, which, upon completion will feature 1,325 mixed-income residences, 300 of which will be owned by residents, K-8 school, preparatory high school, YMCA, library, health clinic, grocery store, city-park, resort-style pool, splash park. A learning center and NFL-quality football stadium have already been completed, as have 685 rental units, 80 percent of which are leased by single mothers – one of the main reasons for the heavy emphasis one education within the development. Ground was broken in 2009 and the $440 million project is expected to complete in 2016.

Photos courtesy of Columbia Parc via Facebook

Tiffany’s, H&M Open in French Quarter

2 Dec 2013, 4:51 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

H&M New Orleans Grand Opening Second Line

New Orleans, the city that not so long ago had one of the biggest shortages of retail in the nation, just keeps adding retail options. From big-box retailers such as Walmart to affordable fashion icon H&M to luxury retailers such as Tiffany’s, everybody seems to want to set up shop in the Big Easy. A combination of filling in of post-Katrina shortages, rebounding population numbers, and a growing local economy with existing and expected high-income employment opportunities in the technology and biosciences sectors have increased disposable income in the region. Also, as reported by The New Orleans Advocate, the city’s booming hospitality industry and growing reputation as a convention hub bring further high earners into the area, with an eye for luxury and a population that in some cases comprises as much as 30 percent of a store’s clientele.

One of the latest arrivals to the Crescent City is iconic jeweler Tiffany & Co., which opened its first New Orleans store on Canal Street, reports The Times-Picayune. Located in the Shops at Canal Place, the 3,900-square-foot store took over space vacated by local jeweler Mignon Faget, which moved to a larger setup just a few feet away. Tiffany’s New Orleans, a location 10 years in the making, is the 94th U.S. store for the world’s second-largest luxury jewelry retailer and incorporates design elements from the flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York. Tiffany’s will employ 21 in New Orleans.

Another big retail event was the recent inauguration of the Pelican State’s first H&M store, a virtual mecca for the young and hip. According to The Times-Picayune, the 32,000-square-foot outlet opened on Decatur Street with thousands of customers lined up on the street. The affordable clothing and home décor bonanza is located at the former site of the Hard Rock Café and is expected to increase the area’s foot traffic. Eighty percent of the store’s 80 employees are local hires.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Irizarry via Facebook.

Housing Authority of New Orleans Seeks Affordable Housing Developers

26 Nov 2013, 2:38 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Mazant Royal site

The Housing Authority of New Orleans’ (HANO) first attempt to scale down its small-housing asset portfolio has proven successful, with bids on 95 of the 115 properties put up for sale in October, reports The Times-Picayune. The majority of the properties HANO is trying to unload are located in the Katrina-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. The housing agency, lacking the resources to redevelop these properties, has been looking for private companies and nonprofits to put the properties and sites back into use. The small-housing assets, known as “scattered sites,” are defined as being housing developments with less than 15 units.

According to the agency’s news release, some sites were offered individually, others in clusters. The housing authority accepted affordable housing as well as market-rate bids, with the former having precedence.  The affordability threshold was defined as 80 percent of or lower than the area median income (AMI). “These properties have not been in use for many years, and our hope is to put them back into commerce while encouraging the development of affordable housing,” explained HANO’s efforts Administrative Receiver, David Gilmore, in the news release, adding that reducing blight and creating healthy neighborhoods also increases the city’s sales and property tax base.

4200 Royal St.

HANO, in partnership with non-profit subsidiary Crescent Affordable Housing Corp., has also put on the market a 1.8-acre site in the Ninth Ward Bywater area. Bounded by Royal, France, Chartres and Mazant streets, the Mazant Royal site is 75 percent vacant, with two two-story residential buildings on site, and is offered as a package deal with an adjacent 0.14-acre site with the address of 4200 Royal St. and housing a six-unit residential building. Buildings on both sites will be demolished prior to handover. Buyers must propose a mixed-income residential development offering affordable, moderate- and market-rate apartments, with a minimum of 20 percent of the units targeting renters with incomes that are 80 percent of the AMI or lower. The affordability requirement will remain in effect for 30 years after the date of initial occupancy. Further project requirements include financially feasible development, high-quality sustainable design, community support and a commitment to hire local disadvantaged individuals and businesses.

HANO originally owned 1,381 scattered property sites, developed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s in an effort to integrate low-income, public-housing-assistance recipient families into neighborhoods throughout New Orleans. HANO now operates 85 scattered sites. An additional 44 properties could go on the market pending approval by the Special Application Center.

Image credits: Google Maps

125-Unit Luxury High-Rise Revived; Six Flags Back on the Market

19 Nov 2013, 5:21 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

New Orleans’ booming economy and growing population have helped revive a project first proposed in 2005: Traçage, a $55 million luxury project set to rise in the Warehouse District, at 711 Tchoupitoulas St.

According to Curbed Nola, the 125-unit project will incorporate luxury apartments instead of luxury condominiums as originally planned, before the Great Recession. The height has also been cut down from the 2005-proposed 288-foot height to 182 feet – which is still considerably higher than Warehouse District structures are normally permitted to be and is reportedly causing an uproar with area dwellers. The project, set to feature 4,500 square feet of retail space on Annunciation Street, will rise on the site of a warehouse razed before the project was put on hold following the market crash. According to Curbed Nola, the Board of Zoning Adjustments approved the project earlier in 2013.

Traçage’s website, though offering little detail besides the “Where modern living and old charm live” motto, touts a 2014 groundbreaking.  According to New Orleans-based Trapolin-Peer Architects’ website, Traçage will feature a concrete structure with a metal-clad exterior curtain wall and a “minimum LEED certification,” Mississippi River views and residential units designed for the “modern downtown dweller,” with floor-to-ceiling windows. Plans also include a rooftop infinity pool and sundeck, as well as a fitness center.

Other news has another stalled development being brought back into the spotlight. The now-notorious 150-acre Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East, a symbol of the destruction left behind by Katrina, is back on the market.

According to The Times-Picayune, the Industrial Development Board is working on having a process to select a new developer set down by the end of the year, with the final developer selected and vetted by 2014. As previously reported, DAG Development and Provident Realty Advisors were selected in 2012 to redevelop the blighted amusement park into a 400,000-square-foot outlet mall and entertainment boardwalk, dubbed Jazzland Outlet Mall. Phase one carried a $40 million price tag and was intended to incorporate existing elements of the defunct amusement park into the new project.

The JV signed a two-year lease for the site to conduct due diligence, paying a monthly rent of only $1,700 for the site. However, in early 2013 the JV expressed its intent to scrap Jazzland, due to the Riverwalk outlet mall redevelopment. The $70 million project by the Howard Hughes Corp. is well underway, set to for a second or third quarter 2014 opening.  In the meantime, the derelict Six Flags site has been used as a shooting location for several movies, including Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Killer Joe and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Image courtesy of ezeterberg via Wikimedia Commons

Massive New Orleans Auction Includes Hundreds of Apartment Units

12 Nov 2013, 7:11 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Looking for a strip mall? A CBD condo? A fourplex? Or maybe a 344-unit apartment complex? If the answer is yes, save the date: On Nov. 21, Sperry Van Ness/Gilmore Auction & Realty, the Louisiana franchise of Sperry Van Ness International, will hold its Fourth Quarter Year-End Sell-Off, by order of local banks and other entities.

Set to be held at the Crowne Plaza New Orleans Hotel, the public auction includes 37 properties that will be sold absolute, with no minimum or reserve. “This will be one of the best opportunities to buy real estate in Louisiana in the last few years. Our clients are extremely motivated to sell these assets prior to year-end,” declared Sperry Van Ness/Gilmore Auction Managing Partner David Gilmore, CCIM, in a press release.  Auction assets are located throughout Louisiana, with the exception of one in Mississippi, and include several metro New Orleans locations, such as New Orleans proper, Covington, Slidell, Chalmette, Abita Springs, as well as Capital Region locations such as Denham Springs, Hammond, Gonzales and Zachary.

One of the greater New Orleans area properties to be auctioned off is the Versailles Arms Apartments, a 344-unit apartment complex sprawled on a 21-acre site in New Orleans East. Prior to Katrina, the two-phase asset was a 236-unit Section 8 apartment complex, but underwent a $5.5 million rehab after the storm, which includes new roofing, siding, reframed windows and doors, and gutting all units to the studs. The complex consists of 43 two-story brick-veneer buildings comprising one- to four-bedroom apartments. The apartment community is located on a public transportation line and borders the Maxent Lagoon on one side, which provides green space.

Another multifamily asset to be auctioned off is a 16-unit townhouse apartment cluster on Golden Drive. Consisting of four two-story fourplex buildings, the asset totals 16,384 square feet and comprises two-bedroom units.  The asset will be sold either as a package or broken up. A 4,500-square-foot New Orleans CBD office/residential condo in the Les Carillons Condominiums complete with two parking spaces is also up for grabs, as are 13 residential lots and several single-family homes, including a two-story boathouse and  a five-bedroom Victorian and a single-story duplex.

Photo credits:  Sperry Van Ness/Gilmore Auction


Inland Pays $74.5M for Downtown Hotel

22 Oct 2013, 4:12 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The New Orleans lodging market stays hot even if temperatures are cooling down in the Big Easy. Following the recent purchase of the Queen and Crescent Hotel (details here), another former office asset turned hotel has been acquired. The 285-key Loews New Orleans, located right outside the French Quarter as the Queen and Crescent, has been acquired for $74.5 million by Inland American Lodging Group Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. That roughly breaks down to a purchase price of about $261,000 per key. Loews Hotels & Resorts will stay on to manage the hotel.

“New Orleans has been able to regain its position as one of the top lodging markets in the country over the past few years and as such has been a market we had identified as an acquisition target for some time,” said Philip A. Wade, Inland American Lodging Advisor Inc.’s senior vice president of investments.

Located at 300 Poydras St., Loews New Orleans is in close proximity to the world-famous entertainment district of the French Quarter, the Warehouse/Arts District, the CBD and the recently expanded  New Orleans Morial Convention Center. The luxury hotel provides 17,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 4,243-square-foot Louisiana Ballroom, 10 meeting rooms ranging from 333 to 1,619 square feet, a 3,944-square-foot pre-function area, a boardroom and the outdoor venue of Piazza d’italia, located next to the hotel. Other hotel amenities include a spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, 50-foot indoor saltwater lap pool, whirlpool, dry sauna, 24-hour full-service business center, the Swizzle Stick Bar and modern Creole cuisine restaurant Café Adelaide, operated by the Commanders Palace Family of Restaurants.

The lodging facility’s 285 keys include 12 suites with panoramic views of the Mississippi, French Quarter or Crescent City skyline. Rooms feature business amenities such as work desks, high-speed Wi-Fi and multiple telephones.

The property was previously an office building and was converted into a hotel in 2004.

Photo courtesy of Inland American Lodging Group via Hotel News Resource

Northview Purchases Queen and Crescent Hotel in CBD, Plans to Renovate

14 Oct 2013, 1:47 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Northview Hotel Group, based in Westport, Conn., has announced the purchase of the Queen and Crescent Hotel, a 196-key asset located just outside the French Quarter in the CBD.  Northview acquired the REO hotel directly from the servicer, in partnership with a fund managed by Apollo Global Management L.L.C. It represents the second venture by the two entities in six months.

Currently, the Camp Street hotel comprises 196 guest rooms, outfitted with European furnishings, original artwork and in-room safes. Hotel amenities include 2,600 square feet of meeting/banquet space, a bar/lounge and a 24-hour fitness center. This could, however, change substantially, as Northview announced plans “to execute a transformative renovation and strategic repositioning plan,” Northview partner Simon Hallgarten said in a news release. Hallgarten added that “the purchase of the Queen and Crescent represented a unique opportunity to acquire an underperforming hotel located in the heart of one of the most vibrant lodging markets in the U.S.” Expected to kick off this year and continue in 2014, the renovation will reposition the underperforming asset by the time it reopens in fall 2014.  The hotel group’s management arm, NVHG Management, will operate the hotel and oversee the renovation process. Neither the renovation budget nor the acquisition price has been disclosed.

The Queen and Crescent marks Northview’s fourth acquisition in the past 18 months, with all of them including post-purchase renovation and repositioning work.

The Queen and Crescent Building, as it was known upon its 1913 opening, initially served as the headquarters of the Queen and Crescent Railroad, the company operating the rail line that connected New Orleans and Cincinnati. The Renaissance Revival-style building, designed by architect Frank Gravely, was purchased by a group of local investors, and following a $12 million adaptive reuse renovation, opened in 1996 as the Queen and Crescent Hotel.

Image courtesy of Queen and Crescent Hotel’s Facebook page

WTC Headed Toward $190M Luxury Hotel, Apartment Redevelopment

8 Oct 2013, 8:38 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The 670,000-square-foot World Trade Center in the New Orleans CBD is two steps away from kicking off an adaptive reuse project that would transform it into a mixed-use luxury hotel and upscale apartment development. According to The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Building Corp. (NOBC) has approved starting lease negotiations with Gatehouse Capital Corp., the proponent of the winning redevelopment bid. If negotiations go smoothly and an agreement is reached between the NOBC and Gatehouse, it will go before the city council for final approval.

The adaptive reuse of the 407-foot historic building is expected to total $190 million, with $75 million coming from historic tax credits and the remainder from new private investment. Dallas-based Gatehouse will negotiate signing a 99-year lease for the city-owned skyscraper and transform what is currently a blighted office property, an eyesore at the foot of Canal Place.

The first 12 floors of the 33-story high-rise will be converted into a flagship W Hotel, set to replace the 410-key W location on Poydras Street , which, as previously reported on this page, is currently under a $29 million brand reconversion into the Big Easy’s first Le Méridien.  The X-shaped WTC building will also gain a five-story attachment on its south side to house new parking, a loading/service area and a 16,000-square-foot rooftop pool and event venue complete with Mississippi River views, designed to hold large events and destination entertainment, such as live concerts. The hotel’s fifth floor will house hotel amenities such as the signature W Bliss Spa, fitness center, pool deck and the unique Spa Suites – oversize hotel suites featuring spa amenities such as a sauna. The ground floor will house the W Lobby Bar and a signature, chef-driven restaurant and bar, complete with outdoor dining.

Floors 13 through 30 will be converted into 280 luxury apartments, advertised as “best in market” on the project’s website. Apartments will come in one- and two-bedroom configurations, and will include some of the most high-end penthouses in the Crescent City. They will feature 18-foot ceilings and wall-to-wall glass, providing sweeping views of the city and river. Although initially unbranded, residential units could ultimately be converted into W-branded for-sale condominiums with hotel services and amenities. Apartment amenities are to be housed on the 31st floor and include a resident sky lounge/business center, state-of-the art fitness center, rooftop pool/spa, open-air roof deck complete with fire pit and outdoor kitchen.

As it did prior to 2005, the top, 33rd floor will house a rotating jazz cocktail lounge and dinner room. The 7,500-square-foot venue will operate with a celebrity chef and high-profile local musical talent.

Gatehouse Capital has previous experience developing W hotels, as well as W-branded hotel-and-residence projects. The company has also expressed a wish to install a Sky Wheel on the riverfront, eliminating car traffic on the Algiers-Canal Street Ferry and redeveloping several public spaces around the WTC.

Rendering courtesy of Save WTC NOLA via Facebook

Former Tremé School to Become $40M Live/Work Artists Community

30 Sep 2013, 4:26 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The Andre J. Bell Junior High School campus located in the historic arts neighborhood Tremé is just one step away from being redeveloped into a live/work artists community. According to The Advocate, the project has been approved by the New Orleans City Planning Commission and only needs one last nod of approval come from city council. It is unlikely the council will oppose the $40 million redevelopment project. The 1010 N. Galvez St. project would not only remove a sprawling blight sight but would also give the historic structure back to the community.

The two-block Bell School Arts Campus project, helmed by developer Artspace Projects Inc. with co-developer Providence Community Housing, envisions a two-phase redevelopment of the sprawling six-building campus to be complete by 2015. According to the project’s Web site, phase one, set to begin in early 2014, entails an adaptive reuse of the two largest on-campus structures into 73 affordable artists live/work units, including studio units as well as one-and two-bedroom apartments. The residential units will be accessible to cultural workers and their families and will have an affordability rate of 50 to 60 percent of the area median income. Also during phase one, the school’s band room will be restored into a musician’s training facility. Furthermore, 45,000 square feet of green space will be created for open arts and fresh food retail use, as well as athletic, marching band rehearsal and community meeting space.

Phase two will renovate a further three structures – all in all, 20,000 square feet of commercial and community space is to be developed, including a nonprofit incubator. The chapel will be transformed into a job-training facility in partnership with the New Orleans Master Crafts Guild, to provide training in such traditional artisan crafts as brick masonry, plastering and metalworking – job skills desperately needed by the Crescent City’s decaying (historic) buildings. Commercial space for small nonprofit organizations and creative enterprises are also in the plan, as is a community kitchen. By completion, the abandoned school campus will become a mixed-use, not-for-profit development sporting a mixed-income residential component, community space, education and job training facilities, as well as cultural and art space.

Funding for the project has been assembled from several sources, including the Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the Kresge Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, ArtPlace and others.

According to The Advocate’s coverage, the property is currently owned by the Orleans Parish School Board, which will transfer the property to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, a project partner,  which in turn will either sell or rent the property to  the developers.

Artspace is a national developer of affordable artists space, focusing on both restoring historic properties and developing new structures. To date, it has completed 33 projects totaling more than 1,500 affordable live/work units.

The Andrew J. Bell campus is located near the $1.6 billion 300-square-block Iberville Tremé redevelopment (click here for more information about the project).

Images courtesy of Artspace Projects, Inc. via Facebook

South Market Celebrates Groundbreaking, Starts Infrastructure Work

23 Sep 2013, 5:09 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Things are racing along at The South Market District (SoMa), the Crescent City’s transformative mixed-use transit-oriented downtown project. Developer The Domain Cos. recently hosted a groundbreaking event to celebrate the launch of the district’s first phase, the $48.4 million Paramount building.  The company also secured financing for and commenced construction on the new infrastructure required to establish the project’s pedestrian-friendly character.

Infrastructure work at SoMa is a complex undertaking, as the project encompasses a four-block area in historic downtown New Orleans, which it aims to become one of the most walkable areas of the city, connecting three of its most sought-after neighborhoods: the CBD, the historic Warehouse/Arts District and the Sports/Entertainment District.

Girod Street, SoMa’s focal point, is set to become a pedestrian-friendly shopping and entertainment corridor. To increase walkability as well as to better accommodate the cafés and restaurants that are to fringe the project’s main artery, Domain secured approval to shut down a traffic lane on Girod and use the extra space to widen sidewalks from the current seven feet to about 20 feet.  Furthermore, 390 linear feet of street are to be reconstructed with everything from new pavement, curbs and sidewalks to sub-surface drainage, utility piping and driveways to street lights, traffic signals, signage and street trees. Metairie-based Hard Rock Construction is the general contractor on the infrastructure component, which carries a price tag of $930,000. Funding was assembled from company equity, operating as South Market L.L.C., and public loans, grants and funds, such as a $500,000 CDBG loan from the Louisiana Office of Community Development and a $300,000 grant from the Louisiana State Capital Outlay Fund.

Phase I of SoMa, consisting of the Paramount building, commenced construction in June. The five-story structure will comprise 209 apartments and 22,000 square feet of street-level retail space along Girod, O’Keefe and parts of Lafayette and South Rampart streets. Paramount is set to be LEED Silver certified while harmonizing with adjacent neighborhoods, featuring a modern take on the Warehouse District architecture. Retail tenants will be announced this fall, upon commencement of the project’s second phase, a $20 million building featuring 25,000 square feet of retail space and a 435-car parking garage. A further two phases of SoMa, featuring retail and residential space, are set for 2014 and 2015 groundbreakings.

Rendering courtesy of The Domain Cos.

Retail Booms in NOLA with Old Projects and New

14 Sep 2013, 4:43 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Retail took a front seat in New Orleans’ commercial real estate market again, with updates on an already underway development flooding the news cycle as well as new projects being announced.

Stirling Properties and CBL & Associates Properties Inc., the joint venture currently developing the 80-acre Fremaux Town Center (formerly known as Summit Freamux), has announced adding a host of new businesses to its future tenant mix.  The five new businesses will take up shop in the 295,000-square-foot first phase of the retail center, scheduled to open in Spring 2014.

Among the new tenants are eateries Cheddar’s, a neighborhood restaurant that will take up 8,000 square feet with its first Louisiana location, and bakery café Panera Bread. Panera’s 5,000-square-foot store will be its second in St. Tammany Parish, after its Covington location. Home décor retailer Kirkland’s has inked a 7,000-square-foot lease for its third St. Tammany store, while children’s clothing brand Carter’s opens its first shop in East St. Tammany, taking up 4,000 square feet. A further 3,000 square feet have been leased by national chain Massage Envy, which is not new to the area, as it already has another location in the parish.

Located at the corner of I-10 and Fremaux Avenue in Slidell, Fremaux Town Center is expected to become a regional shopping destination once both phases are complete. Phase one is set for a spring 2014 completion, while the 320,000-square-foot phase two will open a year later. Read our previous coverage of the project here.

In other retail news, Gretna City Council has approved plans to develop a 45,000-square-foot Rouses Market at the Westside Shopping Center. According to The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans-based grocery chain plans to start construction within a month’s time, targeting a fall 2014 opening date. The new store will be located at the back of the shopping center, which is currently undergoing an $8 million renovation and gained several new tenants recently, including AutoZone and Planet Fitness. The Times-Picayune also reported construction starting on the 112,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter set to replace the Gentilly Woods Shopping Center on Chef Menteur Highway. Scheduled to open in late summer 2014, the $14 million store went through a long and winding process before receiving final approval. Read our previous coverage of the development here.

Image courtesy of Freamux Town Center via Facebook

Private Healthcare RE Developer Eyes Mid-City

10 Sep 2013, 4:00 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

It seems the lure of the New Orleans BioDistrict has attracted a new player to the city’s healthcare and biosciences market. Cobalt Medical Development, a private healthcare real estate development and investment company, plans to build a 60-bed in-patient physical rehabilitation facility in Mid-City, according to the Mid-City Messenger.

The 65,000-square-foot facility will be constructed on Bienville Avenue, on a vacant site adjacent to the Lindy Boggs Medical Center, with groundbreaking set for the first half of 2014–or within 12 months’ time at the latest.  Developers hope to have the rehab center operational by the end of June 2015. The facility will feature private rooms with private bathrooms and shared living rooms; it will offer services such as post-surgery, post-brain-injury and athletic-injury recovery care, as well as veteran care. According to the Mid-City Messenger’s report, Cobalt is keen on forming partnerships with the NFL and other athletic organizations to become the area’s premier athletic injury care center. The center will create about 175 jobs.

One of Cobalt’s most recent projects is Kansas City Elevations, a 45-bed, 54,000-square-foot physical rehabilitation center in Kansas City, currently under development and set for a summer 2014 completion.  According to Cobalt’s website, the company also has three other rehabilitation and brain injury hospitals under contract and five additional healthcare centers under development. Presumably, one of these projects is the future Mid-City location.

Cobalt Medical Development focuses on constructing healthcare real estate in rapid-growth sectors. The company develops specialty hospitals, cancer centers, imaging centers, outpatient centers, post-acute-care rehabilitation and traumatic brain injury hospitals and medical office buildings.

The Mid-City rehab facility’s Bienville Avenue location will put it just on the edge of the BioDistrict, the 1,500-acre biosciences state-enabled economic development district. The BioDistrict is bounded by Earhart Boulevard, Carollton and Loyola avenues and Iberville Street, the latter running right next to and parallel to Bienville Avenue.  One of the most prominent elements of the BioDistrict will be the new $1.1 billion, 424-bed University Medical Center, currently under construction. (Read our previous coverage of the project here.)

Image credit: Cobalt Medical Development and BioDistrict New Orleans

Techno Bonanza in Mid-City Apartments

3 Sep 2013, 2:35 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

A curiously named new project is about to hit the New Orleans apartment market. Dubbed Mid City iLofts, the luxury apartment project recently started leasing. True to its name, marketing has included an ad for Mid City iLofts on New Orleans Craigslist, and MetroWide Apartments, a New Orleans-based management company owned by local developer Joshua Bruno, posted a rather mysterious message on its Facebook wall announcing “brand new homes in the New Orleans Area!”  Bruno himself posted on the management company’s wall a slew of links to the websites of several apartment communities, among them Mid City iLofts, located at 635 N. Scott St.

According to Mid City iLofts’ website, the project will feature 25 one-bedroom lofts and one two-bedroom loft. The newly renovated apartment community will feature amenities such as basketball, handball, tetherball and bocce courts; an outdoor kitchen with bar and barbecue grills, picnic tables, outdoor sofas and chairs, and water misting fans around common areas; water features and lush landscaping; 24-hour CCTV cameras; and gated off-street parking with remote access. The pet-friendly community will also boast an animal shower/bath. Units will be decked out with built-in washer/dryers, Vola fixtures, GE stainless steel appliances, wood flooring, and as the property’s name suggests, an entire palette of all things high tech: high-speed Wi-Fi, built-in Dolby 8.1 surround speakers, with built-in iPod docks, Apple TVs , iPod/iPhone docks and even cloud storage for movies, music and software. To further woo the young, tech-savvy crowd expected to flock to Mid-City, attracted by the BioTech corridor, future tenants signing a 12-month lease who pay the first month’s rent, as well as the full deposit, are rewarded with an Android tablet. Monthly rents are advertised to range between $1,150 and $1,500 a month, a price that includes water, gas and Wi-Fi. The property has an 89 out of 100 score on walkscore.com, earning it “very walkable” and “very bikeable” labels from the specialty website.

According to a report by The Times Picayune, back in 2010 the City Planning Commission approved plans by developer Bill Hindman to convert an existing 26-unit apartment building into a 25-unit condominium project, with units priced for sale for an average $103,000.

Image credit: Mid City iLofts

Affordable Public Housing Breaks Ground at Katrina-Marred Site

19 Aug 2013, 4:33 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

This week marked the start of yet another project that will erase some of the damage left behind by Hurricane Katrina. The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) celebrated the groundbreaking of the new Florida Community, along with city, state and FEMA officials, as well as former residents of the housing project.

Located at the corner of Congress and Law streets, the affordable public housing project will comprise 51 affordable-housing units distributed among 26 duplex structures. One-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will make up the community and will feature Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient storm windows and insulated doors. Apartments will be pre-wired for cable and Wi-Fi, and a management office will be located on the site. Nine units are earmarked for hearing and visually impaired and handicapped residents.

“Not only does this promote environmental sustainability but it also reduces utility costs, promoting fiscal sustainability for the families,” declared Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell in regards to the environmentally friendly features to be included in the project.

Parkcrest Builders L.L.C. has been chosen as the general contractor for the $14 million rebuilding project. Funding has been secured from multiple sources, including $6.6 million provided by FEMA and the outstanding balance from HANO’s Capital Fund Program.

The Florida community is set to be complete by summer 2014 and is expected to accelerate the revitalization of the area. “We are proud to contribute public assistance dollars to support a project that will provide affordable homes for the residents of this community. … As projects like these move forward, New Orleans families continue on their path toward recovery,” declared FEMA Louisiana Recovery Office Executive Director Mike Womack.

The Florida Community has been a long time in coming. Originally built in 1946 as a 734-unit public housing development, the community degraded in time to the point that it became unlivable. HANO demolished it in 2001, starting a $23 million redevelopment project that delivered the first 127 units in 2004 and were immediately occupied. However, Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the property, and all further redevelopment plans were halted.  Currently, the foundations from 77 townhome units and 25 duplex units from the early 2000s redevelopment efforts are still visible (see image). HANO plans to remove them by the end of the year.

Image courtesy of Google Maps

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