Content tagged “Economy, business and finance”

Lamar gets IRS approval for REIT conversion

Lamar Advertising Co. has received approval from the Internal Revenue Service to convert to a Real Estate Investment Trust, the Baton Rouge-based company announced today via a press release. The conversion, which shareholders still need to approve, is expected to be made effective as of Jan. 1 of this year. REIT status allows a company to avoid paying corporate-level income taxes if it distributes at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends. As a REIT, Lamar says it will be allowed to treat its outdoor advertising displays as real property for tax purposes, noting some of its assets and operations will continue to be subject to state and federal corporate income taxes. "Furthermore, assets and operations outside the United States will continue to be subject to foreign taxes in the...

Fate of downtown home could be decided by La. Realtors Association next week

The Louisiana Realtors Association should have a final decision next week on whether to move forward with plans to demolish a historic home on Main Street downtown to make way for a new headquarters building or, instead, to do an adaptive reuse of the property. Representatives from the agency met this morning with the city's Historic Preservation Commission to brief them on the status of the situation, which was more of a courtesy than anything else. The HPC has no say so over the future of the 93-year-old home, located at 821 Main St., because it sits outside the boundaries of the Spanish Town historic district. "We feel it is prudent to meet with as many stakeholders as possible," says Norman Morris, CEO of the LRA. "It was just an opportunity for them to find out from us where we are in the process." The LRA is considering three options: demolishing the house and building a new structure on the property, as originally planned; restoring the house and adding on to it; or abandoning...

Baton Rouge Music Studios to double space with move to Burbank Crossing

Baton Rouge Music Studios—a music performance and entertainment technology academy located off of Hillary Court across from the Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library—has filed a plan review application with the city-parish Department of Public Works to remodel its future location in the Burbank Crossing shopping center next to Hibbett Sports. At approximately 4,000 square feet, BRMS' new Burbank location is double the size of its current studio and will provide the academy the space to further develop its Young Band Nation program—a collaboration between BRMS and Southwest Louisiana Music Studios in Lake Charles that promotes music education and community-building among Louisiana youth—as 225 magazine reported earlier this month. "I knew we had to grow gradually, but there was always this nagging desire to have a community center, a haven for misfits—the...

'Business Report': Battle between 'Advocate' and 'Times-Pic' over legal notices goes to Capitol

In a legislative session dominated by debates over the hot-button issue of Common Core, a series of bills that would change state law to allow The New Orleans Advocate to compete for government classified ads in Orleans and Jefferson parishes hasn't made big headlines. But then, as Editor Stephanie Riegel notes in a new Business Report magazine feature, newspapers often shy away from calling attention to themselves. "Still, the proposed legislation—which would remove the requirement that a newspaper publish in a parish for five years before it can bid on public and legal notices in Orleans and Jefferson—is worth following as it makes its way through the legislative process," writes Riegel. For one thing, it's the latest skirmish in the ongoing media war between the state's two largest newspapers. They've been locked in competition since the fall of 2012, when The Advocate entered the New Orleans market and began aggressively going after subscribers...

DSLD acquires Anselmo Lane subdivision for $2M

Denham Springs-based DSLD Homes LLC, represented by CFO Jeff Purpera Jr., purchased the 41-lot Myrtle Bluff subdivision between Anselmo Lane and Perkins Road for approximately $2 million on Monday, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court. Purpera says DSLD expects to begin construction on the homes in the subdivision—which will range from roughly 1,700 to 2,000 square feet of living area—sometime in June. Prices should range from $200,000 to $240,000, Purpera says. The subdivision, which is located between Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard, is situated right next to the Lake at Anselmo subdivision, also a DSLD development. "It'll be two different products, though," Purpera says. "[The Lake at Anselmo]'s going to be more contemporary style, and [Myrtle Bluff] is more traditional." The seller in the deal was Anselmo RBC LLC, represented by Ross Bruce. As Daily Report reported last year, Dantin Bruce Companies began developing the...

Bids to be advertised in coming weeks for renovation of former Woman's campus

The city-parish is planning to advertise for construction bids in mid-May on the renovation of the former Woman's Hospital campus on Airline Highway for use as the new Baton Rouge police headquarters and public safety complex, says Jim Frey, special projects architect with the city-parish Department of Public Works. "It'll advertise for 30 to 45 days," Frey says, "and after that we can go to the council with the low bid and then have a notice to proceed." The city-parish recently submitted its plan review application for the project, which Frey says will begin with renovating the six-story "old" physicians tower into an office tower for police administration. William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Mayor Kip Holden, says the city is considering renovating some of the other buildings on the 24-acre site, as well. "We've mostly moved everybody out of the old police headquarters on Mayflower [Street]," he says, "but there are a number of other offices around town we're getting...

Andrews: Real estate is still a local investment decision

Gallup recently released its findings on preferences for long-term investments and reports that, on average, "Americans say real estate is the best long-term investment." Upper income Americans—that is, those making $75,000 and over annually—held the strongest opinion on the matter, with 38% identifying real estate as the best investment, even better than stocks, bonds and gold. I read the article twice to make sure that my stockpile of Elvis memorabilia wasn't on the list, and I might be rethinking my self-directed 401(k) as a result. And I'm fairly certain that "real estate investment" is synonymous with buying a home rather than investing in commercial real estate or real estate investment trusts, or REITs. A writer at CNNMoney.com picked up the story and...

Cook: Shamrock Marine buys BR site for warehouse

A smaller, but interesting real estate deal that closed recently was the purchase of a 15,000-square-foot masonry warehouse at 711 North 14th St. by New Orleans-based Shamrock Marine. The building, which was designed by A. Hays Town and is known by some as the Nabisco Building, was sold last week by Lewis & Lee Inc. At $375,000, the sale price works out to about $25 per square foot. Saurage Rotenberg Realtors Associate Broker and Retail Specialist Carmen Austin brokered the deal. He says the buyer services the marine industries with a floating store, refrigerated fleet supply and a grocery delivery system. With locations in the Baton Rouge harbor and at the 100-mile point in Port Allen, the new facility will help the company continue to expand its operations. Shamrock Marine says on its website that it is the only true mid-stream boat store south of Vicksburg, servicing 95% of the boat industry on the Mississippi River. Austin says the business has been growing, which required the...

Maritime One building downtown under contract; residential redevelopment likely

A prime piece of downtown real estate—the Maritime One building at the corner of River Road and France Street, adjacent to the Belle of Baton Rouge casino—is under contract for an undisclosed price, and could be redeveloped for residential use. Doug Ferris with RE/MAX First, who represents the New Orleans owners of the property, says he cannot disclose the buyer or discuss any potential plans for the 35,000-square foot, three-story building. But given its location on the riverfront and proximity to the IBM tower under construction nearby, he says the possibilities are exciting. "The potential for residential is very strong," he says. "But it could be many things. It is going to be really neat." The brick building, which was listed for $1.3 million, was originally a warehouse and, in the 1980s, was part of the Catfish Town mixed-use development. In the 1990s, it was used for office space and for a time housed the offices of LED. It has been vacant for several years. Ferris...

GM recall 'not a big deal' for Gerry Lane dealerships, president says

The recent General Motors recall of millions of Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars has had little negative impact so far on Gerry Lane Enterprises, said Eric Lane, president of the company. "It's been a big deal [nationwide], but not a big deal for us," said Lane, who was guest speaker at the Baton Rouge Press Club's weekly meeting today. While the dealership has only received two complaints, Lane said, "We have about 60 to 70 cars right now that have been checked out in the shop," though he doesn't have further details about the status of the vehicles at this time. "We're addressing that as we speak," he said, adding that he's been satisfied with the way GM has handled the recall. Prompted by an ignition defect that is now linked to 13 deaths nationwide, GM began the recall in February. Documents show that GM knew about the defect as early as 2004, The New...

Editor: It's time to tackle BR's nation-leading sprawl

A recent study that awards Baton Rouge the dubious distinction of having the worst sprawl of all mid-sized cities in America—and the fifth worst sprawl of all cities, including the big ones—didn't seem to raise many eyebrows around here, notes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "But then, anyone who lives here already knows we have a serious problem with sprawl," she writes. "We spend hours a day in our vehicles, suffering gridlock on Airline Highway or Perkins Road or Interstate 10, traveling to and from work, school, kids' activities and social engagements. We work in scattered clusters of office parks. We shop at suburban malls. We don't take the bus. We can't take light rail. From a land-use perspective, we do everything wrong." Smart Growth America, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that ranked Baton Rouge as the nation's sprawl capital, scored Baton Rouge particularly poorly in two categories, Riegel notes: density and street...

Rouzan rezoning up before Planning Commission tonight; Metro Council Wednesday

Among the big issues that will come before the Planning Commission tonight is the rezoning of Rouzan, Tommy Spinosa's mixed-use development off Perkins Road in Southdowns. The neighborhood's original designation as a traditional neighborhood development, or TND, was invalidated in February by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by two property owners whose homes are surrounded by, but not part of, the development. Following the ruling, Rouzan automatically reverted back to A-1, or single family residential zoning, which raised all sorts of potential legal problems for buyers with homes under contract and for existing property owners. Since then, the city-parish has fast-tracked Spinosa's attempts to again zone Rouzan as a TND. Last week, the Metro Council amended the city-parish zoning code, removing the language that gave rise to the First Circuit ruling in the...

Capital Region home sales fall 15% in March

Home sales in the eight-parish Baton Rouge metro area pulled an about-face in March, falling approximately 15% compared to the same month last year, after posting increases of roughly 9% in January and 11% in February. There were 647 homes sold in the eight-parish region last month, compared to 758 in 2013—which was the highest monthly sales total for March of the past seven years—according to the latest monthly report released by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. In 2012, there were 658 sales in March, or just 11 more than last month. The decline last month leaves year-to-date home sales in the Capital Region about even with last year's figures, with 1,775 homes sold during the first quarter this year, compared with 1,772 last year. While the dip in sales...

Four years after spill, BP busier than ever in the Gulf

BP's oil empire began to shrink many decades before a massive oil spill first fouled the Gulf of Mexico and then nearly toppled its industry reign four years ago Sunday. As FuelFix.com reports, it was about 40 years ago that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich states first began to siphon BP's 1 billion barrels of Middle Eastern oil—four-fifths of its reserves in 1975—into state-owned companies like Saudi Aramco. That tightening grip on global oil is one big reason BP, even after the worst offshore oil spill in American history, is doubling down on the Gulf. The London oil company in 2012 sold stakes in three deepwater Gulf fields in part to collect cash for oil spill costs. But in the past year, BP has begun to regain its momentum and help push the U.S. deepwater region past its previous oil production peak, reached in 2009. BP has rebuilt its armada of deepwater drilling rigs to nearly double its size before April 20, 2010, fired up three big expansion projects since last...

'225 Dine': LSU AgCenter Food Incubator to renovate, expand

Over the course of the past year, the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, which specializes in the development of local, emerging food ventures, has already outgrown its space at Clyde Ingram Hall. "We're booked every day," incubator director Gaye Sandoz tells 225 Dine. "The response has been enormous, not only from those who want to start their own business, but the general public. It's been incredible." For years, Sandoz had been waiting for Baton Rouge to pick up this type of program. Now, the incubator is in the process of expanding and doing renovations to its current LSU location. Another off-campus space is also in the works, she says. So far, the food incubator's clients have seen overwhelming success. Among the products to come out of the program are Ruth's Recipes hummus, Hanley Foods salad dressings and Elkarita drink mixer. With the help of food scientist Dr. Luis Espinoza, the tenants are learning how to formulate their products. Also through the program, the...

Record Store Day in Baton Rouge

Since 2007, independent record stores across the nation have been celebrating Record Store Day.

Deluxe Inn on Airline to become ELF Express Hotel following $1M sale

The Deluxe Inn at 10245 Airline Highway near Interstate 12 sold yesterday for $1 million to California-based ELF Homes Inc., says Louis Sirico, CEO of ELF. With an estimated $1.5 million remodel already in progress, the new ownership will upgrade the rooms and change the name to ELF Express Hotel. ELF provides furnished short-term corporate housing in California, but this will be the company's first hotel. "Our goal is to create a really clean, nice space for the working man to stay," Sirico says, identifying the hotel's target market as temporary workers in the manufacturing, petrochemical and film industries. "The nice thing is that we're right across the street from Celtic studios and the new Costco, and that's perfect for us," he says. "I don't expect any of the HBO actors and actresses to stay here, but there are a lot of people behind the scenes. That's our clientele." ELF Express will charge approximately $48 a night, $210 a week and $850 a month, Sirico says, adding, "I think...

City Pork purchased by owner of Leroy's, Frankie's Dawg House

City Pork, the charcuterie that opened near the Perkins Road overpass in December, is under new ownership. The restaurant was acquired in late January by Exclamation Point Hospitality Group, a newly formed restaurant company that also owns Leroy's on Nicholson Drive and Frankie's Dawg House on Perkins Road. “We have three unique concept restaurants and obviously, right now, City Pork is the hot one,” says Stephen Hightower, who created Exclamation Point Hospitality early this year when he decided to buy City Pork. “But I think they all complement each other and will grow.” Exclamation Point Hospitality acquired a majority of City Pork's ownership from Trey Williams, who co-founded the charcuterie with Chase Lyons. Lyons is still a partner in City Pork. “I had a great time creating the concept and bringing something new to Baton Rouge,” says Williams. “But it's a tough business and I did not see myself able to take City Pork to the level that...

Vacant tract on Pecue between I-10 and Perkins sells for $2.3 million

A 4.1-acre vacant tract of land fronting Pecue Lane between Perkins Road and Interstate 10 was sold on Tuesday to Coastal Investment Enterprises LLC for $2.3 million, says Gaines Garrett of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, who represented the seller—Alvarez Construction Co.—in the deal. "We're thrilled about the sale of this tract," says Carlos Alvarez, the construction company's president, adding that it is one of five commercial tracts the company had. According to Beau Box's website, the property subtype is office and retail, and Alvarez says he would expect to see such a development go up there. The buying LLC is represented by Paul Pepitone, who declined to disclose plans for the property when reached by Daily Report. Pepitone also represents SNF Enterprises LLC, which last week completed the purchase of a parcel in nearby Highland Hill Estates for $1.35 million, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court. It is not clear whether the...

BR tourism officials gearing up for a big summer

Local tourism officials are gearing up for a blockbuster summer, with three major events set to take place back to back between Memorial Day weekend and late June. The three-day Bayou Country Superfest will be May 23-25 in LSU's Tiger Stadium, followed by the Miss USA Pageant June 8 at the Baton Rouge River Center. The pageant will be followed by the U.S. Youth Soccer Regional Tournament June 19-26, a weeklong event expected to bring some 15,000 visitors to Baton Rouge. "It is going to be a fantastic summer," says Christy Chachere, communications coordinator for Visit Baton Rouge. "All three events reach very different target markets and attract visitors in-state, out of state and international." Though the Miss USA Pageant will technically bring the fewest visitors to the area—an estimated 4,000 or so tickets will be sold—it has the potential to bring the most exposure to the Capital Region. Event organizers and contestants arrive several weeks early and, as the pageant...

Road to connect The Grove, Interstate 10 service road gets green light

Developer Richard Carmouche has secured preliminary approval from the Federal Highway Administration to build a road that will connect his mixed-use development, The Grove, to the Interstate 10 service road that runs between Bluebonnet Boulevard and Siegen Lane. "That is very important, ultimately," says Carmouche. "It's not so important with what we are doing in phase one because we haven't built a lot of product yet, but it will be very important for future retail development." The Grove is located on 118 acres behind the Mall of Louisiana and currently has one completed apartment building consisting of 190 units, with plans for a second building of 160 units, 850 residential units and 775,000 square feet of office and retail space. For now, the only access to the development is via Mall of Louisiana Boulevard. The new road, which is still more than a year from completion, will enable motorists to turn directly off I-10 East at the Mall of Louisiana exit, just past Bluebonnet. They...

Andrews: Reforms may be on the way for the mortgage interest deduction

Happy Tax Day. And happy birthday to my 85-year-old father, who has shared this day with the IRS since they officially designated April 15 as Tax Day in 1955. I know we've all been preparing for this day over the past few days, weeks and months (for Tax Day, that is—sorry, Dad); calculating our various deductions, searching for receipts and wishing we had started earlier. Reforming one of those deductions—the mortgage interest deduction—is once again being discussed. U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican from Michigan and outgoing chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has proposed sweeping changes to the tax code, including a reduction in the mortgage interest deduction based on the amount of indebtedness one has when securing a home. Current tax law allows a taxpayer to deduct interest payments on up to $1 million in qualified indebtedness. According to

Cook: Several offers rejected before Citiplace III sold for $7,825,000

Several offers were made on the 43,000-square-foot Citiplace III building at 6100 Corporate Blvd. before the owner—6100 Associates LLC, represented by developer Tommy Spinosa—decided to accept an offer of $7,825,000 from Wolf, Et Al, LC, whose registered agent is Charles Bondy and officers are Price Jr., Clifton and Brent LeBlanc. "Good quality buildings with constant income streams are difficult to locate in this market," says Ty Gose of NAI/Latter & Blum, who brokered the deal. "This was a good quality building with good quality tenants." The building was completed in 2002, and its tenants include BancorpSouth, which leases approximately 20,000 square feet, and the local offices of the Federal Housing Administration. Sources close to the transaction indicate that rental rates range from about $21 to $28 per square foot, and the building was nearly 67% occupied at the time of sale. The new owners intend to continue to lease the building and have included it in their...

Dairy Queen planned next to Juban Crossing

Plans are underway for a new Dairy Queen restaurant that will be located across the street from Juban Crossing. Gretna businessman Pete Vicari, who owns several DQ franchise outlets in southeast Louisiana—including the one on Sherwood Forest Boulevard that opened in 2012—has a purchase option on a nearly 1-acre vacant tract directly across from the planned mixed-use development, according to his broker, Mark Hebert. The deal is expected to close in the next three months, and construction will begin immediately, Hebert says. When completed, the new DQ—one of only a handful in this market—will be the first quick-serve restaurant in the Juban Crossing area. It won't be the last, though, according to Doug Ferris, who represents Juban Development Co., which is selling the 38,500-square-foot tract. Now that construction has finally begun on Juban Crossing, Ferris says interest from retailers and restaurant chains has picked up considerably. "The interest has been...

New barbecue food truck getting ready to roll in Mid City, downtown areas

Millie's Bar-B-Q, a new mobile food concept that will focus on the Mid City and downtown Baton Rouge areas, hopes to be rolling by June, says owner Claudia Gray. The food "truck" will be more like a trailer, Gray says, and will offer menu items like barbecue sandwiches, hamburgers and chicken six days a week. "We'll have pretty much anything BBQ," she says. In addition to Mid City and downtown, she hopes to reach out to and serve the industrial plants near those areas. Gray says she is working on setting up the first trailer right now, but hopes to add a second one down the road. Her previous experience in the food industry includes working for her brother's restaurant, Ray's BBQ, which was located at N. 38th Street and South Choctaw Drive but has since closed. Millie's occupies an office in Mid City Tower—formerly the Dean Tower—along with E&C Management Group, Gray's...

The creative toolbox

George Lois said, "Creativity can solve almost any problem—the creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything." I believe him. However, it can often be difficult to find time to focus on creativity because deadlines loom and the clock is always ticking. It's not often said, but taking the time to develop a great idea doesn't cost time, it saves time. Here's why. Great ideas require less production time, less explaining, less revising, and far less marketing and promotion. A great idea sells itself, and it also sells you. Invest time in great ideas and they'll pay off tenfold on the back end. Here are a few creative tools you may find useful to create great ideas for your next project.

My Favorite Tech: Noah Boudreaux

This tech veteran who has worked with some of the nation's largest financial firms in software delivery and implementation was named chief operating officer in 2013 after climbing the Sparkhound ladder. He oversees operation of the entire organization—including the company's Support Services arm, which provides national IT support for customers' infrastructure and applications. On the side, he is an evangelist/enthusiast for Franklin Covey 4DX.

In conversation: Sam Irwin

Our tail-pinching, head-sucking love of crawfish might be a little odd, but it's not new, as writer Sam Irwin explains in his latest work. Irwin was raised in Breaux Bridge, in the cradle of Louisiana crawfish culture. His grandfather, Joe Amy (pronounced ah-mee), was an industry pioneer, dealing crawfish from Amy's Fisheries in Henderson as early as 1932. Louisiana Crawfish is available online from The History Press, and at better bookstores and bait shops.

Tackling sprawl

A recent study that awards Baton Rouge the dubious distinction of having the worst sprawl of all mid-sized cities in America (and the fifth worst sprawl of all cities, including the big ones) didn't seem to raise many eyebrows around here. But then, anyone who lives here already knows we have a serious problem with sprawl.

Spring fever

After the unusually long, cold winter Capital Region residents endured this year, it's no wonder that the first signs of spring have kick-started a flurry of sales at home garden retailers.

A legals war

In a legislative session dominated by debates over the hot-button issue of Common Core, a series of bills that would change state law to allow The New Orleans Advocate to compete for government classified ads in Orleans and Jefferson parishes hasn't made big news. But then, newspapers often shy away from calling attention to themselves.

The 30-hour workweek

The tradition a 40-hour workweek is well-rooted in American labor history, dating to the 1930s New Deal program, portions of which sought limits on worker hours across many business sectors. The cotton industry was the first to adopt the recommended 40-hour standard.

No money necessary

A Baton Rouge entity is showing the rest of the country how to make virtual currency work in the real world.

Sally Calongne

The ball was in her court. Baton Rouge native Sally Calongne had returned to her hometown in 2009 after a four-year stint at a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, eager to re-enter the Capital Region tennis scene.

I am a carbon criminal

i am not a global warming denier. Rather, I am a global warming contributor—if, that is, you accept that carbon emissions associated with the presence of me and my fellow earthlings are the principal driver in climate change.

On the bright side

Judging by the packed house at the 2014 Trends in Real Estate Seminar, business is looking up.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova buys ownership stake in BR native's company

Baton Rouge native and LSU alumnus Holly Emery Thaggard, who in 2007 launched a skincare product line focusing on UV protection called Supergoop!, has announced that tennis superstar Maria Sharapova has invested in the company and is now a co-owner. "As an avid user of Supergoop! daily, for a number of years, I was drawn to not only the quality of the product but also the opportunity to educate people around the world about the importance of practicing safe sun habits every day," says Sharapova in a prepared statement. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Thaggard's brother, Stephen Emery, a Baton Rouge native who now lives in New York, is also a partner in the company. Thaggard says Supergoop!, which is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, has averaged triple-digit growth annually since its foundation. With Sharapova's becoming a key player in the company, Thaggard says the brand plans to further its domestic distribution and expand internationally over the next five...

BancorpSouth Insurance expands La. footprint with acquisition

Mississippi-based BancorpSouth Insurance Services has increased its presence in Louisiana with the acquisition last week of Knox Insurance Group, a 42-year-old commercial insurance brokerage in Lafayette. The deal brings to seven the number of BancorpSouth Insurance offices in the state. Others include Baton Rouge, Metairie, Hammond, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Shreveport. "Knox is perfect for what we do," says Kerry Drake, Louisiana president of BancorpSouth Insurance Services/Wright & Percy. "They go after large, sophisticated insurance risk management accounts, as well as property and casualty, and that will work very well with us." BancorpSouth Insurance Services is a regional brokerage with more than 600 employees and 34 offices. It moved into the Louisiana market in 2003 when it acquired Wright & Percy Insurance locally. The price of the Knox acquisition, which closed on Wednesday, was not disclosed. Knox has annual revenues of around $3 million. Drake says Knox is a strong...

CATS pushing forward with plans for bus rapid transit along Nicholson

After meeting earlier this week with city officials and planning experts, CATS CEO Bob Mirabito is moving forward with plans to explore the possibility of developing bus rapid transit service along the Nicholson corridor, which could eventually be converted into a 3-mile streetcar connecting LSU with downtown. Mirabito met Wednesday with the city's transit consultant, Mike Bruce; planning guru John Fregonese, who is helping the city implement its master land-use plan; and members of the Capital Region Planning Commission. He says they were all supportive of the BRT concept. BRT is an enhanced bus system that operates on bus lanes or other transitways in order to combine the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail. "Our next step is to ask the Federal Transit Authority to allow us to do an alternatives analysis for the Nicholson corridor," Mirabito says. "That will enable us to evaluate all the transit options for that particular corridor, come up with a local preferred...

Realtors eye emerging national retail trends for potential impact on BR

If national trends are any indication, Baton Rouge could eventually see brick-and-mortar Amazon stores or same-day delivery for mall shoppers in the near future, says Jonathan Walker, commercial sales and leasing executive at Maestri-Murrell Real Estate. Walker, who was among the speakers at the TRENDS in Real Estate Seminar on Thursday, points to the federal Marketplace Fairness Act—proposed legislation that would permit state governments to collect sales use taxes from online retailers—among emerging trends that could eventually have a local impact. Another, Walker says, is Deliv—a smartphone app that delivers mall shoppers' purchases to their doorsteps within 60 minutes—allowing them to shop hands-free. In addition to Walker's overview of Baton Rouge's retail market, Branon Pesnell of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate spoke on the area's office market at the...

'225 Dine': Omi 'an underrated gem' offering hibachi, sushi and more

"An underrated gem in Baton Rouge's food scene is Omi," writes 225's Matthew Sigur in his review of the restaurant from the latest 225 Dine e-newsletter. The restaurant has a mix of Japanese dishes, such as sushi rolls and plates from the Hibachi grill, as well as authentic Chinese cuisine sans the typical buffet line. "For starters, try the spring roll, which consists of two of the traditional Asian favorite appetizers chopped into six bites," Sigur suggests. "Each piece is jammed with crabstick, cucumber, avocado, masago, tamago and onions, topped with the restaurant's special white sauce. The crunch of the roll and flavorful burst makes the usually standard fare a standout." On the entrée side, Sigur says you can't go wrong with Black Pepper Beef—"a sizzling dish served piping hot in a cast-iron dish with a broth of garlic, onions and celery with a side bowl of steamed white rice." Though the location, 7951 One Calais Ave., was once considered an eyesore, with...

BR showing signs of becoming a primary market for office, retail investment

Jonathan Walker told today's TRENDS in Real Estate Seminar crowd that Baton Rouge—which has traditionally been considered a secondary market for office and retail investment on the national level, compared to cities such as Dallas, Houston and Atlanta—is beginning to show signs of becoming a primary market. "We've started to see some of that change a little bit," Walker said, pointing to recent deals including CB&I's acquisition of The Shaw Group; Cincinnati-based Viking Partners' purchase of the Bluebonnet Parc Shopping Center; and Texas-based TBG Capital's investment in Perkins Rowe. "Baton Rouge has great employment numbers and population growth, and I think people are starting to take notice." On the other hand, Branon Pesnell of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate warned that minimum options for large blocks of space above 10,000 square feet and limited available parking—especially downtown—might deter some large investments and projects. Aside from the space...

Led by big gains in higher-end home sales, BR residential market 'on fire'

Big gains in sales of homes priced at $300,000 and above over the past year have the Greater Baton Rouge residential market "on fire" right now, said Tom Cook, who was among the presenters at today's TRENDS in Real Estate Seminar. Sales of homes priced above $400,000 saw a particularly significant increase of 55% between March of last year and February, Cook said, while new home sales between $300,000 and $400,000 also rose by 37% over the same time frame. "Still, the bulk of the market is in the smaller home market," said Cook, of Cook, Moore & Associates, who estimates sales of homes below $300,000 account for approximately 77% of total sales in the market. Sales of homes priced between $225,00 and $300,000 were up 33% between March of last year and February, while those priced between $100,000 and $225,000 were up just shy of 9%. On the multifamily front, average apartment rents increased by about 1.5% during 2013 in the Baton Rouge area, which is in line with increases seen in...

Outlook for industrial growth 'beyond robust,' but investors cautioned not to throw too much money at pending boom

The local industrial economy appears to be "beyond robust," says Scot Guidry of Mike Falgoust & Associates Commercial Real Estate. But while Guidry encouraged his audience at the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors Commercial Investment Division's annual TRENDS in Real Estate Seminar today to talk up the good news, he also cautioned them to be careful about investing too much money based on the premise that $23 billion or so worth of projects will be built in the Capital Region. Some of those expected projects may never be built, he says, and some may not be built at the scale first announced. Still, he says, an improving national economy and a "race to the Mississippi River" by chemical manufacturers looking to build new plants or expand their footprints has led to higher prices and occupancy rates in the industrial real estate sector. Supply is tight in many prime areas, though many older spaces, particularly near Choctaw Drive, remain vacant. Small and midsize companies...

Eisenberg: Economic indicators positive, but BR should prepare for end of energy boom

While economist Elliot Eisenberg—keynote speaker for today's TRENDS in Real Estate Seminar—enthusiastically called the state of the Louisiana and Baton Rouge economies a "happy story," he warned that the energy boom won't last forever. "You know it will end," Eisenberg told those gathered this morning at the BREC Independence Park Theatre for the half-day seminar. "Energy booms always end. I would try and plan for what happens the day after. Lafayette in '86 wasn't a happy place, remember that. Nothing good lasts forever. Don't say this time will be different, because it won't be different." Still, Eisenberg detailed a mostly optimistic outlook for the state and Capital Region, celebrating the the area's low unemployment rate, labor force growth—which is above the national average—and 5% increase in home prices since last year. "You're a happy city and a happy state, you really are," said Eisenberg, a nationally acclaimed economist and speaker based in...

'Massive,' vacant Sears building on Greenwell Springs slated for renovation

A partnership owned by members of the Torrance and Salvaggio families—who own the local design/build company Salco Construction—has signed a purchase agreement for the vacant Sears building at 6220 Greenwell Springs Road and plans to renovate the structure and offer it for lease. "It's a massive building sitting at the intersection of Greenwell Springs, Choctaw Drive and Lobdell," says Mark Hebert of Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate, who is brokering the deal. "It's a great piece of property." The building, which dates to the mid-1950s, is 78,000 square feet and sits on 5 acres. For years, it housed Sears' home delivery business, which is now located in Gonzales. Jeff Torrance says Salco will renovate the building, fence it and offer it up for lease as commercial/industrial space. Hebert estimates the lease price would be around $2 per square foot. "What's incredible is that this much space is available in the middle of the city at a traffic light," Hebert says. The...

TSA opens BR precheck program application center

The Baton Rouge Metro Airport won't have a dedicated Transportation Security Administration precheck lane for travelers who are accepted into the TSA's precheck program, which is designed to help people move more quickly through airport security lines. However, those who are approved for the program will be able to move through BTR security lines without removing their shoes and light jackets, TSA says in a press release announcing the opening of a local application office for the program. The office is located at 4305 Bluebonnet Blvd., within the Parc at Claycut Bayou. The TSA launched the program in October 2011 and has been expanding it ever since. The program cost is $85, and membership is good for five years. U.S. citizens and some permanent residents are eligible for the program, which requires people to go through a pre-enrollment process online prior to applying in person at the local application office. The TSA has

Iconic Kean's building on Perkins Road purchased by Pizzolatos

The former Kean's building at 3109 Perkins Road has new owners—Clifton Pizzolato, and his wife, Tracie—who acquired the 2,417-square-foot building Monday from its longtime owner, Frank Kean, for $564,295. It's unclear what the Pizzolatos are planning for the site, despite speculation about a seafood market and deli or some sort of seafood-related business. Pizzolato is estranged from his siblings, who own and operate Tony's Seafood in north Baton Rouge and also Louisiana Fish Fry Products. The two factions of the family have been embroiled in a heated legal battle since last year and Clifton Pizzolato is no longer associated with Tony's. Earlier this year, Tony's issued a statement saying it has no plans to open a second location in Baton Rouge. The Clifton Pizzolato family has declined to comment on its plans at this time. But Hank Saurage of Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate, who brokered the deal along with Carmen Austin, says he believes the new owners will...

BR construction employment up 7% in February

Approximately 46,800 Baton Rougeans were employed in the construction industry in February, roughly 2,900 more than during the same month in 2013, an increase of 7%. According to the latest monthly jobs report from the Associated General Contractors of America, released today, Baton Rouge's year-over-year increase in February was good enough for a No. 51 ranking among the 339 U.S. metro areas tracked in the report. Baton Rouge and 174 other metro areas posted a year-over-year increase in February, AGCA says, while 106 metros saw construction employment decline and 58 posted stagnant figures. "It is encouraging that contractors added workers in so many locations despite severe weather that delayed some project starts," says Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, in a press release. "At the same time, it's clear that the upturn in construction is far from universal.

Former LSU students can now search for McDonald's refunds online

The names of approximately 3,900 former LSU students have been added to the state's database for unclaimed properties, meaning former students can now search online to see if they are owed money as a result of an alleged scheme by which former restaurant employees at the Baton Rouge campus stole more than $30,000 over the past year. "LSU reached out to us to help return this money, and we are happy to do so," says Treasurer John Kennedy in a press release issued today. "Our Unclaimed Property Division refunds money day in and day out, and we will work hard to help people claim what rightfully belongs to them." Kennedy says LSU is reimbursing current students for money lost in the alleged scheme—for which at least seven former employees have have been arrested or issued summons by police—and has turned over the names of alumni and former students to Kennedy's office to handle refunds. According to police, the former employees overcharged students' meal plan cards in the...

Local group files amended suit against Commonwealth Advisors

A group of local retirees who lost millions of dollars in life savings they had invested with Commonwealth Advisors has filed an amended lawsuit against the firm and its owner, Walter Morales, raising new allegations in the case, which dates back more than four years. In the amended complaint, filed April 1 in U.S. Middle District Court, plaintiff Joseph Broyles and other individual investors claim a San Francisco investment firm, Stone and Youngberg, was complicit with Morales and Commonwealth in committing fraud and breach of fiduciary duty by investing their funds—without their knowledge—in risky mortgage-backed securities, then conspiring to hide the resulting losses. "Stone and Youngberg systematically traded Commonwealth's clients' investments in and out of Commonwealth...

La. top state for domestic maritime industry, report says

A new report shows Louisiana leading all states for domestic maritime employment, with one in every 83 jobs in the state being connected to the industry—nearly twice that of any other state. The report, commissioned by the Transportation Institute and developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, says just shy of 55,000 people are working in the maritime industry in Louisiana. Maritime employment covers the wide spectrum of jobs associated with onshore and offshore commerce, including operators, pilots, deckhands, engineers and office personnel. Annual labor income related to the domestic maritime industry exceeds $3.45 billion in the state, the report says. The state's navigable waterway network of roughly 2,800 miles is second to only that of Alaska, and Louisiana handles more waterborne commerce on it than any other state, moving more than 500 million tons of domestic and foreign cargo annually. Louisiana is the only state to record more than $10 billion in total gross economic...

Coastal Urgent Care, DaVita file plans for new medical centers in BR

Coastal Urgent Care, a medical facility with locations in Gonzales and Houma, is planning to build a Baton Rouge location at 9808 Bluebonnet Blvd., according to a plan review application recently filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works. The approximately 3,200-square-foot office is projected to cost $270,000. Meanwhile, DaVita has plans to build a new dialysis center in Mid City at 2901 Florida St. According to its application, the 6,200-square-foot facility is estimated to cost $1.2 million. Interstate Battery—which already has a Baton Rouge location off of Airline Highway—also recently filed an application to build a 5,100 square-foot warehouse at 11131 Airline Highway, projected to cost $680,000. Ryson Builders­—which has locations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans—also filed an application to construct an approximately 5,800-square-foot office warehouse at 14858 South Harrell’s Ferry Road, projected to cost $450,000. Plans for a new...

BR said to be best-performing post-recession housing market in nation

The Baton Rouge metro area housing market is performing about 42% better than it was during pre-recession "normal levels," making it the best performing market among the 350 in the nation included in the latest National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index report, released Monday. In calculating each metro area's index score, the NAHB uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation data from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permits from the U.S. Census Bureau. As for the pre-recession, "normal levels" of activity used to compare current data to, NAHB says it uses permit and price data from 2000-2003, as well as employment data from 2007. Baton Rouge is ranked as the top-performing large metro area in the country in the latest index report, topping others cities in the top 10 such as Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles and New Orleans—which is ranked No. 9. Nationwide, the U.S. average index score...

HBO taps BR firm for 'Game of Thrones' licensing deal

Baton Rouge-based specialty masks and prop maker Composite Effects, or CFX, has landed a licensing deal with HBO to mass-produce products for the popular show Game of Thrones. As 225 reports, the company's "White Walker" costume masks, based on mythological characters from the show, are set for a spring 2014 release. "This is a huge deal," says CFX sculptor and media relations director Diana Branton. "HBO is very specific and careful about how they license things. They have high standards. They would rather not offer a product than offer something that's merely OK. They've set the bar in product licensing." Branton says work on the White Walker silicone mask and costume pieces began during season 3 of the popular HBO series. Read the full story. —Matthew Sigur

Andrews: Getting private skin in the mortgage lending game a good thing

Since the Johnson-Crapo housing finance reform bill—which would wind down government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace them with a new government entity—was announced last month, there has been lots of partisan positioning, with some eager to show why it is the best thing since sliced bread and others why it's the worst thing since the designated hitter (don't get me started). But one issue brought up regarding the proposed legislation is right on the money and could go a long way toward improving the quality of residential mortgage loans being originated in this country through Fannie and Freddie. The bill—which is similar to others that preceded it, such as the Corker-Warner Bill—looks at how residential mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are put together and sold to private investors, a valuable process that provides liquidity to the market. These MBS's will have certain levels of guarantee to make them attractive to investors, with...

Cook: New subdivision off Stumberg planned

A new 44-lot subdivision is set to be developed on a 10-acre site on Stumberg Lane, north of Coursey Boulevard, following last week's purchase of the land by DAGR LLC for $625,000, or about $1.35 per square foot. Prior to the closing, the buyer was able to get the subdivision plan approved, with typical lots measuring 50 feet by 120 feet. "Everyone seems to be scrambling around trying to find land to develop because of the increasing demand," says Doug Ferris at RE/MAX First Commercial Properties, who represented the seller, Kilowatt Klub. The purchasers will most likely sell the lots in bulk to a volume home builder such as DSLD Homes or D.R. Horton, but they would not reveal their immediate plans for the property. DAGR LLC was represented in the deal by Jonathan Starns of Donnie Jarreau Real Estate, who is also a registered officer for the purchasing LLC and previously developed Hidden Grove off Coursey, which featured similarly sized lots that were sold in bulk to DSLD.

Wampold nears completion of luxury apartment project in NOLA

A luxury high-rise apartment building in New Orleans being developed by Mike Wampold is nearing completion and will be ready for its first tenants in June. "We unfurled the banner advertising it last week, and already we're getting tons of calls," says Wampold. The project, called 100 Elk, is a 96-unit, 17-story building on the edge of the Central Business District at the corner of Elk Place and Rampart Street. Formerly known as Elk Place, the 1970s-era building was dilapidated when Wampold acquired it in 2011 from the late Marie Bickham. He has spent some $20 million over the past year turning the property into a high-rise complex with one-, two- and three-bedroom units that rent for between $2 and $2.25 per square foot—about 50% more than new residential units in downtown Baton Rouge are fetching. "It's a very different market," says Wampold. "It is much bigger, much more urban, much more competitive … buildings are being built up right and left." Wampold's renovation...

Council to consider $1.2 million budget amendment for River Center upgrades

The Metro Council will consider Wednesday an amendment to the city-parish's 2014 budget to appropriate $1.2 million to the Baton Rouge River Center for facility upgrades and equipment. General Manager Todd Mitchell says the funding request for the upgrades is separate from the $50,000 the Metro Council allocated to the River Center in August for a study on facility enhancement needs. "We're still in the meeting phases of the renovations study," Mitchell says, adding that he is meeting with theater users such as the symphony and the ballet to make sure the study addresses their biggest needs. Immediate improvements that the $1.2 million will cover include an expansion of the facility's wireless Internet network, estimated to cost about $320,000; $250,000 for food and beverage equipment; and approximately $110,000 in new concession carts and beer portals. Repairs include fixing exterior lighting and upgrading the arena's electrical system. Mitchell says the Wi-Fi upgrade will likely...

La. ranked as having nation's worst drivers … again

Auto insurance website CarInsuranceComparison.com says its latest analysis of federal driving data suggests—once again—that Louisiana is home to the nation's worst drivers. This marks the fourth straight year that Louisiana has topped the website's list, according to the site. For its annual worst drivers rankings, the website compiles data on fatality rates per 100 million miles traveled, citations for failure to obey traffic signals and seat belt laws, DUI infractions, and tickets for speeding and careless driving. It collects data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Motorists Association and MADD. Louisiana was ranked in the top five in three different categories used by the website to compile its overall rankings: failure-to-obey violations, ticketing rate and careless driving. On this year's list, Louisiana is followed by South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.

La. bridge inspections fall short of guidelines, audit says

A new audit says DOTD needs to improve its inspections of Louisiana's bridges. As The Associated Press reports, auditors say the department falls short of full compliance with federal guidelines about the inspection frequency and procedures that should be in place for making sure bridges are safe. The review of Louisiana's bridge inspection program was released this morning by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office. It notes that 14% of the state's bridges are deemed structurally deficient by federal standards. In a written response, DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas notes the state wasn't deemed noncompliant on any bridge inspection benchmarks, but rather fell short of full compliance. She says the department has federally approved plans to address all the areas where it is deemed to need improvement. Read a summary of the report, or

Gas boom creating chemical bond between Gulf Coast, foreign firms

FuelFix.com yesterday took a look at the role of low-priced ethane in the petrochemical boom. Foreign companies are making big bets on the Gulf Coast petrochemical corridor, where capital investment is surging because of cheap U.S. natural gas, other lower costs and the existing industry infrastructure. As yesterday's article suggested, domestic natural gas and its byproducts, including ethane—a building block petrochemical companies use to make plastics and other materials—are low-priced here relative to most of the world because of the surge in oil and gas production from U.S. shale plays. The bargain-rate raw material has caused a stampede of recent international investment along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas, the center of the U.S. petrochemical industry. More than $90 billion of new plants and plant expansions are planned or under construction in the petrochemical belt that stretches from the Upper Texas Coast to New Orleans. Foreign investors include South...

Initial design, groundwork on first phase of Ardendale getting underway

Plans are moving forward for Ardendale, the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority's 200-acre urban village development in Mid City formerly known as Smiley Heights. The RDA is planning to solicit bids next month for the first phase of infrastructure work, which will include clearing and grubbing of the site. Design plans are also underway for EBR Schools' Career Academy High School and Baton Rouge Community College's East Campus, which will include an automotive training center. The high school and satellite community college campus will be among the hallmarks of the first phase of Ardendale. "It is progressing and everything is on track," says RDA President and CEO Walter Monsour, who met earlier this month with EBR Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor to discuss the design of the career academy. Construction of both facilities is scheduled to begin in January of next year and be completed in time for the beginning of the 2016 fall semester. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge Community...

Editor: Latest BR to NOLA rail line study the most promising yet

For more than 25 years, civic leaders and elected officials in southeast Louisiana have been talking seriously about creating passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, notes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "A quarter of a century is a long time for something not to happen, especially if it's such a good idea. But then, there are all sorts of good ideas that would improve the quality of life in this so-called Super Region that we just don't seem ready to buy into yet," writes Riegel. The latest rail study, commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the metropolitan planning organizations of both cities, is more modest than a 2010 study for a high-speed rail line, both in its price tag and approach, says Riegel. The study says it would cost about $250 million or so to build the rail line and about $9 million a year to operate. "It sure sounds good on paper, and it's easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm for something that...

LPK Bar & Grill closes on Corporate, new Mexican restaurant to take its place

LPK Bar & Grill has closed its doors and removed its name from the building at 7474 Corporate Blvd., in a retail center across from Towne Center, while signage for a new Mexican restaurant and bar has gone up on the space. While those behind the new venture—called Trios Mexican Bar & Grill—could not be reached for comment this afternoon on when the new business will open, it's apparent they're set to replace LPK. On the closed restaurant's door today was a note apologizing to LPK customers for any inconvenience the closing has caused, as well as a brief notice that Trios has applied for its alcohol permit. Construction workers were working on the restaurant's interior. Trios was listed in the February report of new business registrations under the legal name of Rabiyah Inc. According to the Louisiana Secretary of State's website, Rabiyah Inc. was also filed in February by Issam Elzahr. LPK did not return calls for comment. Elzahr—who is also listed as the agent and...

Officials eye federal grant funds for BR streetcar, rail transit projects

As civic leaders try to begin moving forward with two new transit initiatives—a streetcar along Nicholson Drive between LSU and downtown and passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans—they're seeking planning grants from the same pot of federal money, which is potentially a problem. "We're trying to make sure we can pursue grant opportunities for both projects without harming the chances of one or the other," says Walter Monsour, president and CEO of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority. Plans for a 3-mile streetcar line along Nicholson were unveiled earlier this year by the city-parish and have been warmly received. Plans for an inter-city rail line were unveiled in March by BRAF and the Capital Region Planning Commission. Both projects...

Zeeland Street Market, Louie's Café seek permission to serve alcohol

If all goes as planned, popular Garden District eatery Zeeland Street Market and the new Louie's Café near the LSU campus will both be serving alcohol. Applications to rezone the respective properties to allow for alcohol service were filed with the Planning Commission. The owners of Louie's are seeking a rezoning of the former Wendy's on Lake Street, which is located less than a block away from the building Louie's is currently operating in and has called home since 1986. The owners purchased the building last month for $825,000, with plans to recreate the look and feel of the existing Louie's as much as possible. Also filed with the Planning Commission recently is a rezoning request from Gary Whitehead, who wants 2.14 acres at 14757 South Harrell's Ferry Road to be rezoned from rural to LC2 for the construction of an office and retail center. Zoning change applications were also...

Large mixed-use development planned on 120 acres near L'Auberge

Plans for the development of a "destination village community resort" over 120 acres stretching from River Road to Nicholson Drive were among the applications filed with the Planning Commission before today's deadline to have issues taken up at the commission's May 19 meeting. Rhaoul Guillaume Sr., president of local engineering firm GOTECH, filed the plans for the Pointe-Marie, which map out a three-part resort and residential development that includes a Village Center District, a Central Square District and a Motor Coach Resort. Guillaume has previously told Daily Report that Pointe-Marie—which lies near L'Auberge Casino & Hotel and borders the LSU Innovation Park—would have a "family atmosphere, using a similar concept to Seaside, Florida," but with "Louisiana-themed architecture." According to the concept plan, the development would include 565 low-density residential units and 285 medium-density residential units, as well as 275,000 square feet of...

RDA eyes 30 acres between downtown, Mid City for next big redevelopment effort

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority will request funds from the state to begin planning the large-scale redevelopment of a 30-acre site between downtown and Mid City, anchored by the former Entergy property that's located in the center of the site. The RDA, which acquired the Entergy property late last year, wants to turn the 6.2-acre property into a mixed-use development with, possibly, a railway station that would service a passenger train line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. "If you look at that area and you look at the catalytic project that can happen at the Entergy site, whether we have a train station there or not, there's a tremendous amount of potential there," says Walter Monsour, president and CEO of the RDA. "We want to look into what we can do to...

Wine Loft at Perkins Rowe closes after lease problems

The Wine Loft at Perkins Rowe has closed its doors after the owners were unable to negotiate a new lease agreement, says Donna Taylor, senior vice president of Stirling Management, which took over management of the the mixed-use development in January. "They closed this past Sunday because they were not current in their obligations with their landlord," Taylor says. "I think the landlord and the prior management company did try to work with them on a solution, but unfortunately they couldn't work it out." Taylor says a number of tenants are interested in moving into Perkins Rowe. While the vacated space would be a natural fit for another bar and restaurant concept, Taylor says, "there are several options out there … and we're going to bring in the best tenant that we can." According to the company's website, there are 10 Wine Loft locations in Alabama, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. NOLA.com reports a Mandeville...

ExxonMobil reopens BR terminal

ExxonMobil's Baton Rouge terminal gasoline loading racks—which the company closed more than a week ago to investigate reports of bad gasoline giving local motorists problems—will reopen today, says Stephanie Cargile, the company's public and government affairs manager. Exxon shut down the terminal racks on Wednesday last week and soon after traced the problems to two batches of gasoline—totaling 120,000 barrels, or approximately 5 million gallons—that were shipped from the facility between March 12 and 15. While the gasoline met regulatory specifications, Cargile says, an internal investigation by ExxonMobil identified an atypical variation in the affected unleaded, regular fuel. She says the variation is consistent with the kinds of issues that a number of local auto repair shops reported seeing in impacted vehicles: primarily, gummed engines that ran roughly...

Entrepreneur: Richard Hanley

Richard Hanley has this advice for would-be entrepreneurs: "The best incentive I've had to pursue something is to put it in the calendar, a rock-solid date, and just do it." As Business Report details in its Entrepreneur feature on Hanley from the new issue, the strategy has served him well. In 2011 Hanley, a marketing professional, was mulling over the idea of making and selling a salad dressing made famous in Baton Rouge in the 1960s. Bob and Jake's Restaurant and Club, on Government Street, had served a "Sensation Salad" its patrons loved. Since that eatery closed, so-called Sensation Salads have appeared on restaurant menus around town, but the dressing wasn't sold in grocery stores. "Marketer that I am, I did a lot of research and figured out no one was doing this," says Hanley, founder and CEO of Hanley's Foods Inc. One night in September 2011, he gave himself a deadline: "I said a year from today I'm going to quit my job and I'm going to bring this salad dressing to...

Energy industry leaders clash over oil exports

Oil industry leaders clashed Wednesday on the nation’s 39-year-old crude export ban, as a Dallas-based refiner insisted that lifting those trade restrictions would spike gasoline prices. "There’s probably a 10-to-20 cent per gallon uplift in the cost of gasoline in the markets we serve which would result from this policy decision,’’ says Michael Jennings, CEO of HollyFrontier Corp. But Erik Milito, upstream director of the American Petroleum Institute that supports oil exports, countered that ending the ban would deliver broad "consumer-level benefits.’’ "Additional exports could help increase supplies, put downward pressure on the prices at the pump and bring more jobs to America,’’ Milito told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the issue. Pocketbook issues are emerging as a major factor in the debate over exporting U.S. crude. Domestic oil production is surging and imports are in decline, hitting a two-decade low last...

Sammy's Grill owner 'in negotiations' to open new restaurant and bar concept at The Oasis

Developer Chris Shaheen says he is close to inking a deal with Sammy's Grill owner Sammy Nagem to develop a "sports bistro and patio bar" as a part of The Oasis, an entertainment-recreational complex he plans to create on a 6-acre plot at Burbank Drive and South Kenilworth. "We are currently in negotiations with Sammy's," Shaheen confirms, noting the restaurant and bar will be a new concept and will not carry the Sammy's namesake brand. "We are hoping to have everything tied up within the next two weeks and are hoping to start construction sometime at the end of May." The 5,500-square-foot restaurant will open out onto a 10,000-square-foot, climate-controlled deck that will include "the largest outdoor TV screen ever," Shaheen says, adding that The Oasis will be big enough to host movie nights, video game tournaments and other such events. Phase one of construction will include the restaurant and bar, as well as an entertainment deck and five volleyball courts—all of which...

Mosely turns to Atlanta developer for Long Farm apartments; plans third filing

An Atlanta-based development company has signed a purchase agreement with Russell Mosely to acquire 12 acres at his Long Farm development, on which it plans to develop 276 multifamily units. "I'm excited we're going to have some nice apartments there," says Mosely, who is developing the project on a 237-acre site on Barringer Foreman Road, where his legendary grandfather, the late U.S. Sen. Russell Long, once did business and entertained visiting dignitaries. "The apartments drive retail and other uses at the project so this is a big step forward," Mosley says. ECI Group, a 40-year-old firm that develops, builds and manages real estate projects in the southeast, is developing the apartments, which will be located on the eastern portion of Long Farm, about 200 feet off of Antioch Road. Final development plans will be submitted to the Planning Commission today, says Mosely, who will also file plans today for a third filing of Long Farm. The 11.2-acre filing will be for 40 single-family...

Mirabito says CATS route expansion has 'opened up a lot of possibilities'

While CATS CEO Bob Mirabito could not provide any hard figures or estimates on bus ridership during the first three days of CATS’ new system rollout and route expansions, he told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge this afternoon that he is already seeing the benefits for the community. "What this expansion has done is, it's opened up a lot of possibilities," he said, pointing to a potential partnership between CATS and BREC to offer routes to the Baton Rouge Zoo and other parks in the area as well as the possibility of providing bus rapid transit service along the Nicholson Drive corridor—a consideration he shared with Daily Report last Friday. Mirabito said CATS' rollout Sunday marked a first for the transit world. "We are the first transit agency of this size to add 10 routes and change 19 in one day," he said. Still, the rollout is a work-in-progress. "We've made...

'Momentous' step taken in development of Model Block in Mid City

Architects Scott Ritter and Steve Maher, along with developer Danny McGlynn, closed today on $1.68 million in loans that will enable them to move forward with their urban renewal plans for the 2900 block of Government Street in Mid City. The plan, known as Model Block, calls for rehabbing the entire block and renovating the vacant Darensbourg Building at the corner of Government and Bedford Drive, which will become the new offices of Ritter Maher Architects. Plans also call for redoing the streetscape, increasing security and lighting, and improving the facades of neighboring buildings, including those home to the Atomic Pop Shop and Liberty Tax Service, among others. IBERIABANK provided conventional financing for the deal, while the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority made available gap financing so the project could get started. "This deal could not have been done without cooperation from the RDA," says Ritter. "They have been patient and helpful as we have tried to close this...

La. company developing aircraft tracking system

A Covington-based company says it's working toward federal approval of satellite GPS technology that would provide second-by-second tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world. The FAA's latest air traffic control technology—now used in Houston—employs only ground tracking stations. Globalstar CEO Jay Monroe tells The Associated Press the system developed by his company and Alaska-based ADS-B Technologies uses a smartphone-sized antenna on top of an aircraft to beam signals to Globalstar's 24-satellite network. On Tuesday, the Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation called for satellite-based tracking systems to become industry standard. Monroe says the companies hope to have FAA approval for the system in a year to 18 months. Real-time tracking surfaced as an issue after controllers lost track of Malaysian Airlines' Flight 370 bound for Beijing on March 8.

New oyster bar on tap for downtown aiming for something 'totally different'

A new oyster bar called Jolie Pearl is set to open by the summer in the buildings at 311 and 315 North Blvd. downtown. "One of those two buildings was originally named Jolie, so that is why we chose the name," says Rick Volland, who is part-owner in the new venture and also owns the Stroubes and Capital City Grill restaurants downtown. "We like the historical significance of that." The buildings—which together total 3,000 square feet and previously housed The Downtown Newsstand and Jobe's Cafe—will remain separated by a wall, but will have an opening between them. One half will feature a traditional oyster bar and table seating; the other half will be available for catering and parties. "Downtown doesn't have a lot of oysters," Volland says. "Everyone has a fried oyster po-boy, but we're trying to bring something in that is totally different." To that end, Jolie Pearl will stick to a menu with few items outside of oysters. The restaurant will serve raw, baked and...

'Business Report': Capital Region small business owners wonder who's fighting for them

They number more than 51,000 in the Capital Region, and they employ more than 85% of the area's workforce. They are located in every corner of the nine-parish region, and they run the gamut from restaurants to retailers to service providers. If you're reading this, chances are you own or work for one of them. "They are small businesses—exalted in political rhetoric as the backbone of the American economy and said by the media to exemplify the quintessence of America's can-do spirit," writes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in the magazine's new cover story. "They are the mom-and-pop hair salon, the shoe boutique down the street, the graphic design firm that creates your Web page, the CPA who does your taxes." According to the government's definition, they are any company with fewer than 500 employees. In reality, the majority of small businesses have fewer than 10 employees. That's certainly true in the Capital Region, where 60% of small businesses have between...

US gas prices hit six month high, expected to rise more

Across the U.S., motorists are paying more on average for gas this morning—$3.56 for a gallon of regular unleaded—than they have since September, according to AAA data. Prices have risen sharply in recent weeks due to declining supplies and rising costs for the ethanol added to the fuel—which AAA says will likely keep prices on the rise. "We expect that the peak for gasoline prices will be in April with the most likely outcome about $3.65," says Michael Green, a AAA spokesman. "It could go to $3.75 if refineries have problems coming out of spring maintenance." In Baton Rouge, motorists have thus far been a little more insulated from big increases at the pump. As of this morning, a gallon of regular unleaded is selling for an average of $3.31 in Baton Rouge, according to AAA. That represents a rise of roughly 5 cents over the past week. It's also about 15 cents more than gas was selling for six months ago—but 12 cents lower than the price one year ago.

BR group's bid for Six Flags redevelopment rejected

A local group's bid to redevelop the Jazzland/Six Flags theme park in New Orleans East was again turned down by the city agency that owns the property. Tonya Pope, who describes herself as a theme park consultant, had submitted a bid to the New Orleans Industrial Development Board to redevelop the 150-acre site, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina. But the IDB rejected her proposal on Tuesday, and also that of another bidder, citing concerns over developer qualifications and lack of firm financial commitments. "Both bidders had the same problem: There was no equity," says Alan Phillipson, president of the IDB. "Hopefully we are going to have someone come along with capital or these guys can come back when they show us they have money to put on the plate. … But to come into a $100 million project and have no skin in the game makes no sense." Though Pope, who has...

10 acres off Stumberg sell for $625,000

A 10-acre plot of land off of Stumberg Lane is among a few notable land deals that were recently recorded by the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court. Dagr LLC, represented by Brandon Dodson and Jonathan Starns, purchased the Stumberg property for $625,000 on Monday. The seller in the deal was Kilowatt Klub, represented by Kenneth Russell Jr. Meanwhile, a parcel off of Arlington Road sold for $1.36 million to Gal Leasing LLC, represented by George Lato. The seller in the deal—which was also recorded with the clerk of court on Monday—was Sherwood Pointe LLC, represented by Edward Rotenberg. Also on Monday, KPNC Properties LLC acquired five lots on the corner of Cloverland Avenue and Benefit Drive near Airline Highway from Stephen and Donna St. Cyr for $643,500. Other notable deals include the $467,500 sale of a 3-acre piece of property on the corner of Hooper and Lovett roads in Central, and the $450,000 sale of a 4-acre tract at 9955 Florida Blvd. to Glynnwell Enterprise LLC,...

Pat's Cajun Seafood and Steak to move in to former Las Palmas on Jefferson

Pat's Cajun Seafood and Steak, which has two other locations in south Louisiana, will occupy the former Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant—which closed last year—on Jefferson Highway between Essen Lane and Corporate Boulevard. "We're trying to open up in June," says owner and head chef Jude Huval, adding that renovations include adding on a crawfish boiling shack behind the kitchen and installing tin and cypress boards inside. "We're trying to give it that Cajun look." Huval's parents, Pat and Agnes, opened the original Pat's Fisherman's Wharf in 1952 in Henderson and quickly became known for their Cajun specialties. Thirty years later, Huval's sister and brother-in-law, Nancy and Ricky Perioux, opened the second location—Pat's of Henderson—in Lake Charles. Huval, a graduate of the Louisiana Culinary Institute, has spent his career working at the original Pat's in Henderson, and in 2012 he competed on Food Network's Chopped, a reality television series on...

Andrews: How Fannie Mae found success in the multifamily business

In recent columns we've looked at the proposed legislation aimed at restructuring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored enterprises currently under the control of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. You probably know Fannie and Freddie in the context of their single-family business, whereby they buy single-family mortgages from banks and residential mortgage companies to return liquidity to the market. What you might not know is that Fannie and Freddie are also active in the commercial segment, providing liquidity for multifamily properties in much the same way. We have heard the stories of how the residential side of things got so out of whack during the credit crisis and why some think that a significant restructure is in order—but what about the commercial side? The story is quite different in the commercial space, where Fannie's and Freddie's operations...

Cook: AutoZone closes on Airline Highway site for new store, regional warehouse

AutoZone Development Corp. closed late last week on a 2.29-acre site off Airline Highway, across the street from the Home Depot at 8181 Airline Highway, at a price of $775,000, or roughly $7.75 per square foot. AutoZone plans to build a 30,000-square-foot store on the site—much larger than the typical 7,000- to 9,000-square-foot store for the Memphis-based chain—which will serve as a prototype and regional hub for stores in the Baton Rouge metro area. A 7,000-square-foot retail store will adjoin a 23,000-square-foot warehouse distribution storage facility on the site, says Austin Earhart of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, who represented AutoZone in the deal. With the new store as a regional hub, if you go to the AutoZone on Florida Boulevard and they are out of the headlight you need, you can pay for the headlight and they will deliver it to you at any location from the regional warehouse on Airline. This helps AutoZone retain the sale and discourages the customer from...

Local insurance firm announces IPO

1347 Property Insurance Holdings Inc., a Baton Rouge-based property and casualty insurance holding company, announced this morning that it's going public. The company, which sells insurance in Louisiana via its wholly owned subsidiary Maison Insurance Co., says it will price its initial 1,887,500 shares of common stock at $8 per share. The company says in a press release issued this morning that it has granted representatives of the IPO underwriters a 45-day option to purchase up to 283,125 additional shares to cover any over-allotments, if any. Shares of the company's common stock will begin trading on the Nasdaq Capital Market beginning today. The IPO is expected to end on or about Friday, the company says. Aegis Capital Corp. is acting as sole book-running manager for the offering. EarlyBirdCapital Inc. is acting as a...

B.R. group to pitch plan for redeveloping former Six Flags in N.O.

A Baton Rouge-based group that includes former Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle will again go before a city agency in New Orleans today to pitch plans for redeveloping the Jazzland/Six Flags theme park in New Orleans East, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina. The company, Paidia Entertainment, is owned by Tonya Pope, who describes herself as a theme park consultant and has tried unsuccessfully twice before to put together a deal to resurrect the park, which originally opened in the early 2000s. She asked Kyle, whom she knows through family connections, to join her team several years ago and says he will serve as CFO if she is successful in getting the bid to redevelop the park—which is not at all a certainty. Though Pope was the only bidder in February when she submitted a $50 million proposal to redevelop the site as a Louisiana-style theme park with a water park, studio back lot and retail space, her plan has since come under fire. Members of the New Orleans...

Spreading the message

As the longtime publisher of Tiger Bucks—a coupon booklet targeted to LSU students that offers discounts and deals at local restaurants, shops and service providers—Carol Thomas has a unique perspective on small businesses. Not only does she operate a small business herself, so do most of the clients who advertise in her publication.

Competing with the big boys

When Ron Lewis opened the first Maxwell's Market on Corporate Boulevard in 2000, it was one of the few specialty markets/delis around the Capital Region. While there were a handful of high-end supermarkets, they didn't sell pre-packaged meals like Maxwell's nor did they do a sit-down lunch business.

Holding on to tradition

In the early 1980s, white flight from downtown and Mid City to the suburbs accelerated. Royal Furniture owner Mike Tricou saw the trend and recognized the alarming demographic shift in his customer base. But while many retailers moved to the seemingly greener pastures farther east—or at least opened second locations there—Tricou stayed put.

The tire man

If you've seen Simple Simon's Car Care Center's low-budget, classically kitsch TV commercials over the years, you might assume Bill Simon is little more than your garden-variety huckster without much substance behind his admittedly endearing sizzle.

Home sales: All conditions favorable

The Trends in Real Estate Seminar will be held April 10.

A walk in the cloud

Talk of the cloud is all the rage in corporate technology circles, and some business owners may find the buzz a little off-putting, or even intimidating. How many CEOs, after all, can take time to go all nerdy and investigate the ins and outs of cloud computing?

On the right track

For more than 25 years, civic leaders and elected officials in southeast Louisiana have been talking seriously about creating passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The Go Auto guy

Greg Tramontin IS the Go Auto man. He is the voice and the face behind the radio and TV ads. He's the creator of the auto insurance company so familiar to Louisianans that anyone who has heard or seen a commercial can't help singing the simple, addictive jingle: "Go! Go! Go Autoooo!"

Michael Richmond

Michael Richmond heads up the technology division of Postlethwaite & Netterville. A network engineer, he's the guy who knows what all those acronyms like LAN, WAN and SAN mean, and how to make them work. He has consulted with government agencies and varied private-sector markets alike on high-level security and compliance, as well as advanced network design and IT strategic planning.

Richard Hanley

Richard Hanley has this advice for would-be entrepreneurs: "The best incentive I've had to pursue something is to put it in the calendar, a rock-solid date, and just do it."

Getting water from the moon

When actress Linda Hunt accepted the Academy Award for her role in The Year of Living Dangerously in 1983, she said she was reminded of an Indonesian saying she learned while working on the film.

Harvest boon

Good local weather, strong prices for key crops, and the ongoing economic recovery helped Louisiana agriculture achieve its biggest economic output ever last year, according to the LSU AgCenter.