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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

Stirling Celebrates Launch of 108 KSF Mid-City Market

6 Aug 2013, 4:43 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Louisiana-based Stirling Properties officially opened the Mid-City Market, an urban infill shopping center located on the corner of North Carrollton Avenue and Bienvielle Street in the historic New Orleans neighborhood of Mid-City.

The 108,763-square-foot shopping center is Stirling Properties’ largest ground-up retail development in the Crescent City.  Anchored by a 54,390-square-foot Winn-Dixie, the adaptive reuse shopping center brings much needed retail to the area, as well as an excess of 500 new jobs. Among new tenants already opened to the public are Winn-Dixie, Office Depot, Panera Bread and Pizza Hut, while Verizon Wireless, Pinkberry, Felipe’s Taqueria and Ochsner Urgent Care Clinic are some of the businesses that will soon open at the location. As previously reported on this page, around 80 percent of the property was pre-leased when construction kicked off.

Although the project broke ground in March 2012, according to Townsend Underhill, senior vice president of development, the company had been pursuing the project for almost four years. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared, “Mid-City Market is proof that New Orleans is building back better than before. This project took once blighted and vacant properties and transformed them into a retail and restaurant hub for the community. It’s another example of a strong public-private partnership delivering new jobs, new tax revenue and new energy to this important corridor.” Prior to the launch of Stirling Properties’ project, the 6.5-acre site was in an advanced stage of blight, suffering extensive damage during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as well as due to neglect, having been abandoned by its former owners. While the former Bohn Ford dealership building was demolished and replaced by the Winn-Dixie, the former Harry’s Ace Hardware building was renovated and given a new life.

Construction was executed by Donahue Favret Contractors Inc., while the contextual urban and adaptive architecture design was handled by Mid-City-based VergesRome Architects. The project boasts extensive pedestrian-friendly features, such as terraced outdoor seating, pedestrian plazas, benches, bike racks and native landscaping, which will ensure the shopping center will complement the nearby Lafitte Greenway, a 3.1-mile-long pedestrian and bicycle pathway and linear park, set to begin development later in the year. A former shipping canal and railway that once connected the French Quarter to Bayou St. John, the project aims to created publicly accessible open space, recreational areas, bike paths and various other amenities and connect neighborhoods along its way.

Mid-City Market is the culmination of more than $40 million in private investments and represents not just a significant and much-needed retail and restaurant hub for New Orleans and the Mid-City neighborhood, but is also another victory over the destruction left behind by Hurricane Katrina.

Mid-City Market was developed by Stirling Properties and will also be managed and leased by the company.

Image courtesy of Stirling Properties 

New Orleans Tops List, as City Rebuilds

1 Jul 2013, 4:52 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

What was hard to even imagine just a few years ago seems like the factual future now for the Crescent City: New Orleans has made it to the No. 1 slot on a Forbes magazine list. Joel Kotkin‘s recently released list of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. cities since the recession placed New Orleans con top with an impressive 28.3 percent growth since 2007, bringing the city’s population in 2012 to 369,250.

Although the growth rate is generally attributed to the post-Katrina rebound, New Orleans is undoubtedly working hard to achieve growth. And with the city still far from pre-Katrina population levels (which numbered 472,000 in 2002), growth is expected to continue.

Furthermore, the city is experiencing a striking economic rebirth. Traditional New Orleans industries are rebounding, hospitality being the most obvious example, with old and new festivals filling the city streets and big-attendance events such as the 2013 SuperBowl; oil-related industries also abound in the Greater new Orleans area, while the state’s film and labor tax credits combined with the city’s unique architecture and setting have resulted in a blossoming film industry that not only boosts the city’s image but also brings in much needed revenue to local businesses.

In addition to its Hollywood South nickname, New Orleans is striving to reach another goal: that of Silicon Bayou, the South’s Silicon Valley. It is banking on becoming the IT city for technology start-ups.

And the city’s growing economy is evident in its spending appetite. As previously reported on this page, The Domain Co. has started construction on South Market District, a massive mixed-use residential and retail development in downtown New Orleans spanning four blocks. With luxury amenities and LEED features, the project is expected to become a premier living destination in the Greater New Orleans area. But the smaller shops that such development is targeting are not the only retailers to profit from the city’s increase in revenue and spending power: Big-box retailers have flocked to the city in the past two years, far more than any other region of the U.S. Walmart is bringing two stores to the city, while Costco is also on its way to develop a store in the Big Easy. And then there is the Summit Fremaux in Slidell, Metro New Orleans, the two-phase retail destination being developed by locally based Stirling Properties and national retail real estate investor CBL & Associates Properties . The 650,000-square-foot development also holds the potential for future development, as it was initially imagined as a 400-acre mixed-use project. Read more about the project here.

Image credits: Postcards from New Orleans Facebook page

Magnolia Marketplace to Be Developed by Joint Venture

11 Jun 2013, 5:52 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Covington, La.-based Stirling Properties has formed a joint venture with JCH Development, a New Orleans-based boutique, to build the Magnolia Marketplace Shopping Center in New Orleans.

Expected to break ground in Central City at the intersection of South Claiborne and Toledano Streets in fall 2013, Magnolia Marketplace will be a 138,000-square-foot retail center upon its 2014 completion. As of now, the future shopping center has retail agreements in place for about 108,000 square feet of space with established national retailers and is in talks with further potential tenants for the remaining space. According to The Times-Picayune, the tenant roster includes names such as T.J. Maxx, Dress for Less, PetSmart, Shoe Carnival and Raising Cane’s, all paying premium rents for their respective leases.

Construction will start with a 6,000-square-foot structure located at the center of the future retail complex. Half of the building’s total surface will be taken up by a Capital One bank branch.

The project is expected to revitalize the neighborhood and attract further commercial development to the Claiborne Avenue Corridor.

“We are proud to bring a high-quality development to a severely underserved portion of the Claiborne corridor and return yet another vacant and blighted property in the city to commerce,” said development manager for Stirling Properties Jordi Goodman in a press release.

As previously reported on this page, Striling Properties has several high-profile retail developments in the pipeline for the Greater New Orleans area, such as the $38 million Mid-City Market along North Carollton Avenue and the 80-acre multiphase Summit Freamux project off I-10 in Slidell.

Image courtesy of Google Maps

Recently Sold W Will Become First Le Méridien in NOLA

3 Jun 2013, 8:35 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Just a month after its sale, there are more changes coming to W New Orleans. The hotel, the second W-branded property operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. in the Crescent City, will be converted into a Le Méridien property in a bid to launch the Paris-born brand in one of the hottest U.S. hotel markets.

The 410-key hotel, purchased by Chesapeake Lodging Trust for $65 million earlier this year, will undergo an extensive renovation and conversion process set to launch in April 2014 and finish by  the end of the year. The $29 million strategic conversion will include the complete renovation of all of the 410 guest rooms and bathrooms, as well as a complete overhaul of the hotel’s restaurant, lounge and lobby so as to bring into play signature Le Méridien features and offerings.

The redevelopment of the lobby into a Le Méridien Hub will be among the biggest changes to be implemented at the property. One of the signature features of the brand, a Le Méridien Hub is more meeting and socializing place than waiting area and features a strong coffee culture and contemporary artwork.  Hubs are an intrinsic part of the brand’s award-winning arrival program, which also includes large-scale artwork in high-impact areas; a signature atmosphere achieved by a combination of scent, sound and light; a 24-hour curated soundtrack; and the Unlock Art programme, consisting of artist-designed room keys that double as access cards to brand-affiliated contemporary cultural centers in the city.

The hotel’s rooftop pool, fitness center and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space will also be upgraded.

Located at 333 Poydras St., the new Le Méridien New Orleans is located in close proximity to the world-famous French Quarter, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Harrah’s Casino and Riverwalk Marketplace. As previously reported on this page, Starwood sold the asset to Chesapeake Lodging for $65 million in April 2013, making it Chesapeake’s fifth Starwood asset and second W-branded hotel in the Big Easy (it also acquired the 97-key luxury W of New Orleans – French Quarter for $25.5 million). Starwood Hotels & Resorts stayed on as long-term property manager.

Photo courtesy of W New Orleans’ Facebook page.


Planned Parenthood Constructs $4.2M Clinic; Engineers Selected for $615M Pump Station Build-out

28 May 2013, 9:05 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Affordable healthcare is always needed, especially in areas with high poverty indexes. The good news for New Orleans is that Planned Parenthood is expanding its Crescent City presence.

The leading provider and advocate of reproductive healthcare in the U.S. has broken ground on a new facility. Currently located in a single-story single-family house at 4018 Magazine St., within 10 minutes’ walking distance of both Kindred Hospital and Community Care Hospital, the not-for-profit organization’s New Orleans chapter is constructing new space on an empty lot at 4636 S. Clairborne Ave., near the intersection of Clairbone and Cadiz streets.

The $4.2 million facility broke ground on May 22, reported WWL-TV.  Upon completion–expected in 2014–the 7,000-square-foot state-of-the-art healthcare facility center will provide a full range of reproductive health services and education programming, cancer screenings and women’s health services.

In other news, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers named North American design firm Stantec as lead engineer and architect for a $614.8 million joint venture design/build contract on three permanent canal closures and pumps (PCCP) in New Orleans. The PCCP facilities are to be located near Lake Pontchartrain at the end of Seventh Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue Outfall Canals. Stantec will provide comprehensive integrated design services on all three PCCPs, including  architecture, civil, geotechnical, structural, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and controls design; project management; and construction support.

The project is set to break ground in fall 2013 and be completed in 44 months. Upon completion, the PCCP facilities will provide sustainable, long-term protection against heavy tropical rainfall and the 100-year storm surge event. The PCCPs set to be built with Stantec’s input will replace the existing interim closures installed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Image courtesy of Planned Parenthood

$23M Film Studios for East NOLA; $1.6B Iberville Tremè Transformation Slowly Moves Along

21 May 2013, 4:52 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Amid recent news and speculation regarding the future of New Orleans’ status as Hollywood South – namely Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent proposal to decrease Louisiana’s film industry tax incentives – came some good news for local film production. According to The Times-Picayune, the Industrial Development Board (IDB) awarded a property tax break to a proposed film studio that is set to break ground in fall 2013.

The $28 million project, helmed by Starlight Studios, would create a mixed-use development in eastern New Orleans, in the vicinity of the Michoud Assembly Facility. The IDB will assume title to the property for a 10-year period, during which it will lease the land back to the developers in exchange for an annual pilot starting in 2014, when the project is expected to be completed. After the pilot period, the IDB will sell the 32-acre land to Starlight. The movie production facility will comprise a 30,000-square-foot office building and four sound stages totaling 96,000 square feet.

In other news, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and the city of New Orleans have announced a public information meeting for May 20th during which schematic designs will be reviewed for Phases I and II of the Iberville redevelopment project. The meeting seeks to provide information and receive input from the general public and other interested parties.

As previously reported on this page, the Iberville Tremè transformation project is set to undergo a massive transformation process. Valued at $1.6 billion, the project will cover a 300-square-block area bounded by Broad Street, St. Bernard Avenue, Rampart Street and Tulane Avenue. The Iberville Tremè project is a recipient of a $30.6 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative HUD grant that seeks to transform distressed neighborhoods and public assisted housing developments into vibrant mixed-income neighborhoods with adequate schools, public transportation and access to employment.

The Iberville Tremè Transformation Plan ultimately plans to create a total of 2,400 mixed-income housing units, increasing affordable housing options including both rental and owned, as well as seniors housing and housing compatible with the needs of the disabled. Other goals will include creating opportunities for quality education as well as for employment and entrepreneurship, support of cultural assets, revitalization of infrastructure, access to neighborhood services and fresh foods, removal of blight, strategic reinvestment into commercial corridors and increasing green space as well as the overall percentage of green buildings.

Image courtesy of Choice Neighborhoods New Orleans’ Facebook page

126 KSF Dillard’s Announced as Anchor of Summit Fremaux Phase II

13 May 2013, 2:58 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

CBL & Associate Properties Inc. and Stirling Properties have announced that Fremaux Town Center Phase II will be anchored by national fashion apparel and home furnishings retail chain Dillard’s Inc. The retailer is set to open a single-level, 126,000-square-foot store featuring the company’s newest store design and presentation layout. The location will offer fashion apparel, home furnishings and cosmetics, including the chain’s exclusive label, tailored to the shopping preferences and habits of the Slidell region.

Phase II of Fremaux Town Center is expected to open in spring 2015, with groundbreaking set to take place around the March 2014 opening of Phase I, now in development. Phase II will feature 320,000 square feet of fashion-oriented retail space.

“With construction underway on Phase I, we are pleased to welcome a key department store such as Dillard’s to Phase II,” declared CBL Development and Administration Executive Vice President Michael Lebovitz, adding, “The traction we are receiving from retailers for both phases is a statement to the strength of the market and its increasing demand for retail.”

The 330,000-square-foot Phase I of the Slidell retail hub will be anchored by national brands such as Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy and T.J. Maxx. Other retailers will include Rack Room Shoes, ULTA Beauty, PetSmart and LongHorn Steakhouse. All in all, Phase I currently boasts a 70 percent lease rate.

Fremaux Town Center is being developed on 80 acres at the corner of Fremaux Avenue and I-10 in Slidell, a municipality located in Northshore — on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain in the New Orleans metro area. As previously reported on this page, the project — initially imagined as a 400-acre mixed-use development with office, retail and residential components — sat in limbo for years after the ’08 market crash before Louisiana-based Stirling Properties took it over last year. In January 2013, Striling Properties entered into a 35/65 joint venture with CBL Properties to develop what is expected to become a premier shopping destination.  Read more about the deal here.

For further New Orleans market data, click here.

Image courtesy of Stirling Properties’ Facebook page.

$340M in BP Restoration Funds Coming to Louisiana

6 May 2013, 4:01 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

It’s been just a little over three years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also known as the Macondo blowout), the largest, most devastating marine oil spill in history, devastated the Gulf of Mexico. With 200 miles of Louisiana’s shoreline still oil polluted, restoration of natural habitat, local communities and the fishing and tourism industries still has a long and very costly way to go. While BP agreed to allocate $1 billion in restoration funds throughout the Gulf of Mexico in April 2011, until recently the company had approved only $70 million in restoration projects in the state of Louisiana, which took the worst of the spill. However, Gov. Bobby Jindal recently announced that BP has agreed to provide $340 million in restoration projects in The Pelican State, declaring, “We must aggressively move forward on these and other important restoration projects to ensure future generations have the same great opportunities.” He added: “This announcement today makes a great stride forward, but this marathon is far from over.”

The $340 million will go toward restoring four barrier islands from Terrebonne Parish to the eastern bank of Plaquemines Parish and two Fish Stock Research and Enhancement Centers: one in Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish and one in Point a la Hache in Plaquemines Parish. The two centers will cost $22 million.

The restoration of the four barrier islands will take up the larger chunk of the funds and contains the following components:

-      Caillou Lake Headlands Component (also known as Whiskey Island). The $110 million Terrebonne Parish will restore beaches, dunes and back-barrier marshes.

-      Shell Island Component in Barataria Bay, Plaquemines Parish. The restoration of back-barrier marsh and dunes and beach on the east and west lobes will cost $101 million.

-      Breton Island Component in Breton Sound, Plaquemines Parish. A $72 million project to restore and protect beach, marsh and dune in the Breton Wildlife Refuge. The project is in its last configuration phase.

-      Cheniere Ronquille Component, also in Barataria Bay, Plaquemines Parish. The $35 million allocation will cover the construction of beaches, dunes and back-barrier marshes.

Following the spill in 2010, Louisiana was the first state to request BP to fund restoration projects immediately. BP agreed to allocate $1 billion in restoration funds the following year. In July 2011, Gov. Bobby Jindal released the “Louisiana Plan,” an initial list of priority projects to be funded from the BP payments. The list was compiled with input from various stakeholders, such as coastal residents, fishermen and parish officials.

During the 87 days during which the oil gusher flowed unrestricted, an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the ocean. Oil discharge continued after the July 2010 capping of the oil gusher, and even though officially the well was declared sealed off in September 2010, some reports indicate the site could still be leaking.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.

Photo courtesy of NASA via Wikimedia Commons

Chesapeake Lodging Pays $65M for Second W Acquisition in April

29 Apr 2013, 3:59 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Annapolis, Md.-based Chesapeake Lodging Trust has acquired the 410-key W New Orleans from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. for $65 million.

The hotel’s 410 guest rooms include 22 large suites. Among its amenities are a 24-hour, 1,500-square-foot signature Sweat Fitness Center, signature WET outdoor rooftop pool complete with poolside cabana and TV sets and high-tech signature WIRED business center. In addition, its 13,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space comprises 13 flexible banquet and meeting rooms, with the largest space clocking in at 4,992 square feet. The 24-story hotel features two bars – the Living Room Bar and Whiskey Blue – as well as full-service on-site restaurant Zoë, offering Southern New Orleans cuisine.

The hotel’s 333 Poydras St. address locates it in Downtown New Orleans, in close proximity to the French Quarter with its world-famous jazz clubs, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Riverwalk Marketplace, Harrah’s Casino and the Warehouse District’s art galleries.

According to a press release, Chesapeake will embark on a $29 million repositioning renovation of the property, set to kick off in April 2014 with plans to minimize operational disruption. “Historically, we have not acquired many assets with significant renovation needs, yet we have a very talented team that can execute on this renovation and add value to the property” declared James Francis, president & CEO at Chesapeake. Planning for the renovation is currently underway, with work reportedly to include the addition of about 3,000 square feet of meeting space, relocation of the restaurant, new hard and soft goods in the guestrooms, as well as refreshing the Living Room lobby.

Starwood will stay on as property manager under a long-term contract.

W New Orleans is the second W-branded New Orleans hotel acquired by Chesapeake in April 2013. The company acquired the 97-key W of New Orleans – French Quarter earlier this month. Click here for further information about the transaction.

For more New Orleans market data, click here.

Photo courtesy of W New Orleans’ Facebook page

Ramada Suites Hotel Completes Renovation, Rebrands as Holiday Inn Express

22 Apr 2013, 5:16 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Real estate investment and development company Laurus Corp. announced it completed renovation of the 130-key Ramada Suites Hotel at New Orleans Airport, as well as the rebranding of the property as a Holiday Inn Express. The property, located at 110 James Drive East, was purchased by Laurus in March 2012.

The $2.7 million renovation of the property included a total rehaul of guestrooms, as well as meeting areas, the exterior façade and the landscaping. Guestroom renovations include new flooring, furniture, lighting and window treatments, plus upgraded fixtures in guest bathrooms. The hotel’s lobby, conference room and breakfast area also feature new flooring, furniture, televisions, window treatments and light fixtures. Exterior renovations include a new courtyard deck, pool deck and paint job.

Hotel amenities now include three meeting rooms totaling 3,800 square feet, with the largest of the rooms capable of accommodating 200. Meeting space is outfitted with audio-video equipment. Other amenities include a business center, technical concierge, fitness center, outdoor pool, 24-hour lounge, wireless Internet access, 187-car on-site parking, a cocktail lounge and an on-site VooDoo BBQ & Grill. Room amenities include 32-inch flat panel TVs, refrigerators and microwaves.

“The extensive renovation program will enhance the hotel’s brand in a well-performing marketplace as well as increase the asset’s performing value,” Laurus Chief Investment Officer Austin Khan declared in a news release.

The hotel asset is conveniently located in proximity to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, a major transportation hub serving an estimated 9.7 million travelers every year. The hotel, now dubbed Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites New Orleans Airport South, is located at the entrance to the 200-acre upscale James Business Park, which features more than 2 million square feet of commercial space.

Laurus also signed a new management agreement for the property with an unnamed local management company.

Click here for additional New Orleans market data.

Photo courtesy of Laurus Corp. via PRNewswire.

W of New Orleans – French Quarter Trades for $25.5M

8 Apr 2013, 6:25 am

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor
Annapolis, Md.-based Chesapeake Lodging Trust has announced finalizing the purchase of the 97-key luxury W of New Orleans – French Quarter. The self-advised lodging REIT acquired the property from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. for $25.5 million.

Located on Chartres Street, the W is within a short walk of Jackson Square and the world-famous French Quarter’s entertainment, dining and shopping venues. The hotel boasts a four-diamond rating, courtesy of a major revamp it underwent in 2012. Following the renovation, the hotel now boasts amenities such as a state-of-the-art signature SWEAT fitness center, a tree-lined heated WET branded outdoor pool, a Living Room lobby, and more than 735 square feet of high-tech meeting space overlooking a classically New Orleans courtyard and capable of hosting 150-guest events. The W also boasts the SoBou restaurant and bar, named in Esquire magazine’s Top 10 ranking. The locale offers contemporary Creole cuisine and an innovative cocktail program.

The 97 guest rooms include four carriage-house studio suites and a deluxe suite. The recent renovation revamped guest rooms as well, and they now reflect the Big Easy’s unique culture and history. Rooms either exude “Jazz,” with golden yellow walls and a floor-to-ceiling brass image modeled after a horn, or voodoo mysticism in the “Tarot” rooms, inspired by famed New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Amenities include 40-inch LCD flat-screen TVs, IPod docking stations, infrared keyboards and Bliss bath paraphernalia.

Starwood owned the property since 1997. It will continue to manage the hotel under a long-term contract.

The W of New Orleans – French Quarter is Chesapeake’s third W-branded property and fourth Starwood hotel. The company owns 17 hotels totaling 5,004 rooms.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.


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