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Starwood Announces Addition of Aloft Brand in CBD Adaptive-Reuse Project

10 Mar 2014, 9:07 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has announced plans to open a 188-key Aloft hotel in the New Orleans Central Business District, converting a historic office building. The project follows a bevy of other successful adaptive reuse projects involving the Aloft brand, such as Aloft Orlando Downtown, Aloft Miami-Brickell and Aloft Dallas Downtown.

Aloft New Orleans Downtown, the brand’s first Louisiana location, will open at 225 Baronne St., within the eponymous office building. The 30-story historic property, owned by 225 Baronne Complex LLC, an entity of New Orleans-based HRI Properties, is currently undergoing redevelopment that is set to transform the dilapidated office structure into a mixed-use project. According to The New Orleans Advocate, the project is worth $100 million.

Upon completion, 225 Baronne will comprise the 188-key Aloft New Orleans Downtown, 192 mixed-income housing units, 2,910 square feet of retail, 6,000 square feet of meeting space and a 356-car public parking facility. At least some of the housing units will be upscale apartments. Units will feature hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and in-unit washer-dryers.  Amenities will include a rooftop swimming pool, fitness facility, multi-purpose room, covered bike parking and on-site management office. The development’s CBD location will ensure excellent access and connectivity for residents and hotel guests to the Crescent City’s world-famous French Quarter, the Mercedes Benz Superdome, jazz clubs and vibrant nightlife, shopping and downtown’s many offices.

Set for completion in the first quarter of 2015, the more than 308,000-square-foot project will be executed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic preservation. Roy Anderson Corp., a subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corp., snagged the $61.3 million construction contract for 225 Baronne St. and started work in November 2013. The project also involves the demolition of an adjacent structure, the 919 Gravier Building.

Aloft New Orleans Downtown will be managed by HRI Lodging.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.

Image courtesy of HRI Properties



Whitney Wyndham Sells for $10.5M

4 Mar 2014, 2:54 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

New Orleans real estate developer, investor and hotelier Joe Jaeger has picked up The Whitney Wyndham Hotel at 610 Poydras St., paying $10.5 million for the asset, reports Canal Street Beat.

The 93-key downtown property was previously owned by a partnership controlled by Robert Weinmann, a Metairie business owner, and Paul Flower, chief executive at Wood Design + Build. The previous ownership had purchased the property from Whitney National Bank in 1999 for $2.5 million and converted it into a hotel.

The 93-key, eight-story former bank building is a National Historic Landmark and a recipient of the 2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award. It combines traditional architecture with modern design. Amenities include more than 35,000 square feet of customizable meeting space, with its largest event space seating totaling 1,200 and one meeting room located in the original bank vault. Further amenities include a business center complete with audio-visual equipment, a full-service fitness center, valet parking, a lobby bar, a coffee shop, Wi-Fi throughout the property and on-site restaurant Bistreaux at the Bank, serving original Creole fare.

According to Canal Street Beat, Joe Jaeger owns or has stakes in several downtown New Orleans hotels, such as the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel, Hotel Mazarin, Bourbon Orleans Hotel and Crowne Plaza New Orleans, among others. Jaeger also own the MCC Group, a mechanical contracting firm.

In other hospitality news, New Orleans hotels have voted to impose a 1.75 percent extra room charge to generate income for city infrastructure projects and tourism promotion, reports The Times-Picayune. The charge will kick in on April 1 and apply to New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau-member hotels, except eastern New Orleans locations. Seventy-five percent of the tax will be collected by the convention bureau, while 25 percent will go into city coffers to pay for French Quarter infrastructure repairs and public safety. The convention bureau will spend 75 percent of its share on domestic marketing, such as promoting the city as a convention destination and to attract additional air travel service, while the remainder will go toward international marketing efforts.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.

Image courtesy of The Whitney Wyndham via Facebook



Blighted Nursing Home to Become Low-Income Housing

25 Feb 2014, 2:33 pm

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

McCaleb Residences

Another Katrina-marred building might finally be returned to use, after developers of an efficiency apartment project received funding approval from the State Bond Commission, reports The New Orleans Advocate. The 40-unit project at 2535 Esplanade Ave. aims to redevelop the Katrina-marred former Bethany Home seniors housing property into efficiency apartments for the formerly homeless, disabled and working poor.

The $6.6 million project aims to create 20 units for low-income individuals and 20 for the formerly homeless, all of which would be 450 square feet in size. The project’s cost breaks down to $166,553 per unit, or $140 per square foot. Financing will be covered by $3.2 million in Katrina recovery funds, $2 million in low-income housing tax credits, an $834,000 loan and $500,000 in other funds.

The project is being developed by the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP) in partnership with New York-based nonprofit Common Ground and various charities. GCHP, a real estate development company, partners with non-profit, government and for-profit entities to build affordable housing serving low-earning and at-risk individuals and families.

GCHP has been involved in several New Orleans projects to date, such as the 43-unit McCaleb Residences on Clio Street, developed in partnership with the Progressive Baptist Church’s Dr. M.W McCaleb Fund. Completed in October 2012, the 48,535-square-foot home consists of one-bedroom units, 22 of which are leased to tenants earning 50 percent or less of the area median income, while 21 are designated as permanent supportive housing for the homeless. The $7.5 million McCaleb also features a community kitchen, media room, computer room, multifunctional space and office for counseling and support services.

GCHP is also developing a $6.7 million, 26-unit affordable housing complex on Clairborne Avenue. It will feature one-bedroom apartments, three of which are earmarked for special-needs households. The latter will receive special needs services from Covenant House. The project, which broke ground in August 2013 just one mile away from the French Quarter, is being brought to life in partnership with Gardner Development.

According to The New Advocate, the Bethany Home project was first proposed back in 2009 but spent years with lawsuits and even necessitated the involvement of the U.S. Justice Department.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.

Image courtesy of Gulf Coast Housing Partnership



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







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