Content tagged “Economy, business and finance”

BR the nation's 45th largest export market in 2013, report says

With total merchandise exports last year of $6.3 billion, Baton Rouge was the nation's 45th largest export market, according to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Total exports from Baton Rouge grew by $441.3 million last year, compared to 2012 figures, or 7.6%. Exports from Baton Rouge accounted for approximately 13.6% of all goods shipped out of Louisiana, according to the report. Meanwhile, the New Orleans metro area recorded a record $30 billion in goods exported in 2013—a 23.3% increase from 2012—ranking it eighth in the nation. The Lake Charles metro area, with $5.7 billion in exports last year, also made a listing of the nation's top 50 areas for exports last year, at No. 49. Goods exports supported 282,540 jobs in Louisiana last year, the report says. Across the nation, exporting directly and indirectly supported an estimated 11.3 million jobs in 2013.

Commercial redevelopment planned next to downtown Raising Cane's

Downtown property owner Mike Crouch says he's ready to begin redeveloping the 4,000-square-foot, ground-floor space that is adjacent to Raising Cane's in his building at Florida Boulevard and North Third Street. For the past several months, Crouch has been preoccupied with the residential space on the second floor of the building, which is being redeveloped into three high-end apartments that will be available for short-term and corporate lease. Now, he is ready to turn his attention to the commercial space, which fronts Florida Boulevard and is next to Cane's. "It could be restaurant or retail," Crouch says. "We're not really sure yet but we have several people who are interested in it ,so we don't think it will be a problem." Crouch, who bought the historic building last year for $1.2 million, declines to discuss the status of negotiations over the neon Coca-Cola sign that sits...

BR called 'gold standard' for downtown development by 'Clarion-Ledger'

Readers of Jackson, Mississippi's daily newspaper The Clarion-Ledger woke up Sunday morning to a glowing headline and front-page story about the success of downtown Baton Rouge's redevelopment over the past two decades. "Baton Rouge: From vacant to vibrant," reads the headline to the story, which goes on to report that "from a growing residential population to a booming hotel industry, downtown Baton Rouge is accomplishing what Jackson leaders have envisioned for the heart of their own city: a renaissance." For Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer, the story was an unexpected surprise and a welcome shot of free publicity. "They interviewed me back in the summer," Rhorer says. "I had no idea when the story was coming out. It's just great for Baton Rouge." Read the full story. —Stephanie Riegel

LSU-area condos purchased for $575K

An LSU-area condominium complex has been purchased by S.B.M.D. LLC for $575,000, according to land sale records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Records refer to the 10-unit complex as University Place Condominium. The complex, at 428 E. Boyd Drive, faces Janet Avenue and includes parking. The LLC is directed by Stanley Bienasz, an anesthesiologist who works with the Baton Rouge General hospitals. He bought the property from Lafayette-based BJD Properties LLC, represented by George William Buller III. Bienasz was not available for comment on his plans for the property as of this afternoon's deadline. Other recent land transactions of note filed with the clerk of court include:
• M & M Plumbing, located at 6757 Complex Drive, bought the building it was leasing for $304,000, according to Thomas Murray, a business partner.

Andrews: Local economic, housing prospects rosier than national outlook for rest of 2014

The good folks at Fannie Mae have reviewed our nation's economic progress over the first half of the year and have both good news and bad news for us. In a recent news release, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan notes improvements in the general economy and projects good things for the rest of 2014. "The August outlook supports our expectation that the economy will grow in the second half of the year at slightly above trend and push full-year growth into positive territory, albeit still weak by historical standards," says Duncan. "We expect the forecast will get a boost from consumer spending, which appears positive in the current quarter given the improving trends in personal income and hiring." But he doesn't have such positive things to say about the housing sector. "With respect to housing's contribution to growth this year, we have downgraded our outlook following the...

Cook: Local brokers open new Sperry Van Ness firm

Steve Legendre, Ben Graham and Justin Langlois have opened a new local commercial brokerage firm in association with Sperry Van Ness, a national franchise. "We partnered with Sperry Van Ness because it will give us a nationwide presence and provide referrals from sources we may not have gotten otherwise. The company will give us a national reach, coupled with local expertise," says Langlois. "It was the right time to make a move because the market is beginning to expand and we wanted to take advantage of that. The software that Sperry Van Ness provides is agent focused. The ease at which it does the mundane task of paperwork, allows the agent to do what they are supposed to do, which is get out and sell." The new company will be housed at 6160 Perkins Road, in exactly the same suite where Mike Falgoust and Edward Rotenberg opened as Sealy Falgoust Commercial Real Estate years ago. "All three new owners have worked together, either at the same company or on brokerage deals, over the...

Livingston has first site certified as development ready through LED program

A 93-acre site in Livingston Parish has become the first parcel of land in the parish certified as development ready through a program of Louisiana Economic Development, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Livingston Economic Development Council announced this morning. The land comprises the remaining available acreage in the Livingston Parish Industrial Park, located in Walker. Across the Capital Region, there are 20 LED Certified Sites. LED began the program in 2010, working with landowners and local officials to ensure sites are shovel-ready for major project development. To become a certified site, the property must either have all utilities and infrastructure in place, or have approved engineering plans to provide the utility infrastructure within 180 days. "Certified sites are crucial for the Baton Rouge area to succeed in securing new business," says Iain Vasey, BRAC's executive director of business development, in a prepared statement. "BRAC encourages industrial and commercial...

Holden helps kick off monthlong Trevor's Wish food drive

Mayor Kip Holden helped kick off a monthlong food drive in memory of Trevor Sims this morning, officially proclaiming September as "Trevor's Wish—Help Feed The Hungry Month" at an event at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Before dying of cancer on Oct. 16, 2013—just four days after celebrating his 11th birthday—Sims inspired the community to take up a weeklong effort to help feed the homeless and poor. The drive last year raised enough food and money to provide for over 433,000 meals. This year, those behind the food drive are aiming to raise even more. As 225 reports, the food drive kickoff festivities continue tonight with a party at Caliente Mexican Craving, 1072 W. Lee Drive, from 5 to 8 p.m. Those who bring one canned good will receive a free scoop of ice cream. The event, which coincides with September's Hunger Action...

States taking divergent paths on film tax credits; La. benefits

Even before North Carolina officially pulls the plug on its film tax incentive program, Louisiana may be the beneficiary of that state's decision to stop offering a 25% refundable tax credit on film-related expenditures. According to online news service StarNews in Wilmington, Cinemax elected to shoot the fourth season of its crime series Banshee in Louisiana, which offers a 30% credit on expenditures in excess of $300,000. StarNews reports Banshee spent more than $67 million in North Carolina in its second season. Christopher Stelly, executive director for Louisiana Entertainment for Louisiana Economic Development, said he had seen the report about Banshee relocating to Louisiana, but that is news to his office. “I have not been notified by any of the production executives for the series Banshee on relocating fully to Louisiana. The production has always planned to shoot in Louisiana for a week or so in September of this year as listed...

First phase of River District moving toward fruition

Two firms that specialize in developing multifamily complexes are negotiating with the Lafayette-based developers of the proposed River District to do the first phase of apartments at the site. Architect Steve Oubre, who is working with developers Dalis Waguespack and Michael Moreno on the project, says the brother-sister team is in talks with two firms about developing the first phase of residential units, which would number between 140 and 200. It has been more than five months since the Planning Commission approved the concept plan for the River District, a proposed mixed-use project that would straddle Nicholson Drive between LSU and downtown. Oubre says Moreno and Waguespack will remain master developers of the project but always intended to bring in other developers to work on the first phase of residential and commercial development. Oubre also says he hopes to begin...

'225 Dine': Portico owners close Coursey location to focus on Southdowns restaurant

Portico has closed one of its two locations in the Capital City. 225 Dine reports the restaurant's Coursey Boulevard location, which opened in June 2012, closed last Sunday. Co-owner Stephen Walker says the decision was made to consolidate efforts on the Southdowns location at 4205 Perkins Road, which opened in January. "It was becoming an issue of consistency between the two locations," Walker says. "We wanted to focus on making the best Portico brand we could, and we felt like the Southdowns location had more potential in the future." The Perkins Road restaurant has been renovated, with a new patio with room for 40 patrons. The interior is now one "big wide-open space," Walker says, with booths and tables and the dining room flowing into the bar area. Executive chef Josh Hebert was also brought in, focusing on a menu that was revamped with the help of local food writer and occasional 225 contributor Jay Ducote. "We narrowed the scope of the menu," Walker says,...

Level buys 21 Rouzan lots for $1.43M

Level Construction and Development LLC has bought 21 lots in the Rouzan development located near the Glasgow Avenue and Perkins Road intersection for $1.43 million, or a little over $68,300 per lot. "It's a tremendous location, it's a great concept, and we feel very strongly about it," Level partner Todd Waguespack says. "It just needs some momentum." Rouzan has seen its hiccups, including the six years it spent tied up in a zoning conflict and opposition from its neighbors in the Southdowns community. But Waguespack says Rouzan is over the hump. "It's going to create a market and grow from there," he says. Waguespack says he hopes to price 1,400- to 2,500-square-foot homes for between $330,000 and $460,000. When complete, the plans for Rouzan call for a retail component, office...

High-rise Marriott hits the auction block with a $7M starting bid

The iconic high-rise Marriott Hotel off Interstate 10 near the College Drive exit is up for auction, with a starting bid price of $7 million. That's considerably less than the $32 million lenders were owed when they bought back the property for $2,200 in court costs nearly one year ago. It's also much less than the $28 million local real estate experts estimated, at the time, the asking price could be. But the 43-year-old hotel needs considerable updating, and the $7 million starting bid suggests it may well find a buyer who will be able to invest heavily in renovating the 21-story, 299-room hotel. The property is listed on auction.com, which describes the hotel as the "most visible lodging establishment in the region," with 20,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space and a...

La. ports helping stem job losses in era of increased global trade competition, report says

While the economies of some of Louisiana's neighboring states have taken significant hits due to the growth of international trade competition over the past 20 years, The Washington Post reports the Bayou State has fared better due to the strength of its port system. For example, Alabama has lost more than 89,000 jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, while Arkansas lost more than 49,000 jobs, primarily in the apparel industry. NAFTA has had a less significant impact on Louisiana, but has still cost the state approximately 24,000 jobs over the past two decades. Louisiana ports currently support about 400,000 jobs, according to data from the Ports Association of Louisiana. "Based on the activity of [the Port of Greater Baton Rouge] and the rest of the ports down the river, Louisiana is doing well," Karen St. Cyr, spokesperson with the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, tells Daily Report. Baton Rouge's port, the ninth largest in the country,...

Sullivan's plans renovation adjacent to ongoing work at Esplanade Mall

Sullivan's Steakhouse, which operates in Esplanade Mall at the corner of College Drive and Corporate Boulevard, has submitted an application to the East Baton Rouge Department of Public Works to remodel the restaurant. A manager at Sullivan's declined to discuss details of the renovation, but it appears to be significant. According to the application, the renovations are projected to cost $500,000 and will cover more than 7,800 square feet of the roughly 11,170 total square feet the restaurant encompasses. The restaurant is adjacent to a long-vacant former department store in Esplanade Mall that recently began undergoing a partial demolition and renovation. Other tenants in the shopping center include Hooter's, Lock and Key Whiskey Bar and the Melting Pot.

Industry observers don't expect states like La. to follow North Carolina in axing film tax credits

As Louisiana debates the merits of its own film tax credit and other states such as California are looking to substantially boost funding for such credits, North Carolina may be exiting the Hollywood stage. As The Los Angeles Times reports, North Carolina state legislators opted last week not to renew its program despite heavy lobbying by the local film industry to preserve the incentives. The decision not only was a big blow to North Carolina's film industry but also underscores the growing scrutiny that film subsidies are receiving nationwide. Other states have also voted to eliminate or curtail their film programs by imposing caps and reducing funding. Michigan and New Mexico, for example, took steps to scale back their programs, and Iowa scrapped its program in 2009 after an audit identified widespread abuses. Still, 39 states offer some form of tax credit, rebate or grant. Will some of those states now follow North Carolina's lead? Not likely, industry observers say. "I...

Georges talks about decision to build new BR headquarters, newsroom

Several factors were behind publisher John Georges' decision to build a new corporate headquarters for The Advocate on the site of the newspaper's Reiger Road printing presses. “You can't ever put a single reason on a decision I make,” Georges tells Daily Report. “But one of the main factors is that I prefer always to own buildings rather than rent them, if possible. Call me old-fashioned.” Georges today announced his plans to build a three-story, 48,500-square-foot building that will house the newsroom for the Baton Rouge Advocate, as well as the business offices for all three editions of The Advocate. Georges declines to say what he plans to spend on the new building, but the market rate averages between $200- and $300-per-square-foot for new office building construction, which could put the price tag in the range of $10 million to $15 million. The high visibility of the site—which can easily be seen off Interstate 10 at the...

WBRZ hires anchor to replace Vann on '2une In'

WBRZ News 2 has hired Kylie Dixon as longtime anchor Whitney Vann's replacement on the station's 2une In show. Dixon, who is coming to Baton Rouge from KXII News in Sherman, Texas, will make a cameo appearance on the show Wednesday, and will begin co-anchoring the show with John Pastorek on Friday. Vann, who announced she is stepping away from the program in June, has co-anchored it for the past 17 years—the longest anyone has hosted a morning show in Baton Rouge, WBRZ says. “I've had an amazing 17 years hosting 2une In. But it is time to pass the baton in Baton Rouge to someone else,” Vann says in a prepared statement. “I know the station did a nationwide search for that special someone who would be the perfect fit on 2une In. Kylie is that person. I look forward to welcoming her on 2une In and introducing her to our loyal...

Apartment complexes in north BR sell for $3.6M

A Connecticut-based realty group has purchased three apartment complexes in north Baton Rouge for $3.6 million, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court today. Included in the sale are the Oak Village Apartments at 1616 North Harco Drive, as well as the La Belle Aire Apartments and Centurion Arms Apartments, both of which are listed at the address 1710 North Marque Ann Drive. The complexes are all located at adjoining properties, north of Florida Boulevard and between North Sherwood Forest Drive and North Flannery Road. They collectively include 329 apartments over roughly 14 acres, plus about 550 parking spaces. Doing business as 1500 Lorene LLC, the buyer is Kevin O'Brien, whose O'Brien Realty Group is based in Connecticut and has offices in North Carolina, Colorado and New Orleans. O'Brien could not be reached for comment on his plans for the apartment complexes in time for this afternoon’s publication deadline. According to its...

Cook: Geaux Clean car wash buys Prairieville site for new location

Geaux Clean Express Car Wash has purchased a 1.75-acre site in Prairieville to build its third automated car wash in the Capital Region. The property is located just off La. 73 near the Interstate 10 interchange, directly behind the Simpson Automotive facility that sits on the corner of La. 73 and C Braud Road. The deal closed on Aug. 14 at a total price of $727,495.56, or about $9.50 per square foot. "The new Express Wash will occupy about 50% of the site, and the other 50% will be offered for sale," says Will Adams with Property One, who brokered the transaction along with listing broker Macon Callicott. It will be Geaux Clean's third location in the Baton Rouge area. According to the company's website, it's other locations are on Wax Road in Central and on Highland Road in Baton Rouge. The property will be improved with a state-of-the-art automatic car wash. The proposed plan also calls for 20 self-service vacuum stations. Construction should begin within the next two months.

Andrews: Hurricane preparedness starts with planning

As we approach the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and having just avoided another tropical storm invading the Gulf, it is probably worthwhile to consider plans for how we would handle our real estate businesses if we were hit by another storm. There are several excellent resources for general preparedness, including the American Red Cross Ready Rating system, but real estate issues are more specific and require a bit of additional planning. For instance, how would you track and collect rent if computer systems were down? One manager I spoke with says that he now creates a manual listing for the upcoming month that does not rely on Internet access for recordkeeping. He's also created a manual procedure for the collection of rent as well as the handling of the cash and checks received. These were lessons learned from previous storms when he was not in a position to collect the rent in a secure or organized manner. Also,...

Hanley's Foods graduates from LSU Food Incubator

The LSU AgCenter Food Incubator says it has graduated its first tenant to a co-packer. Richard Hanley, who has been making his Hanley's Foods salad dressing at the incubator since its opening last July, will now be able to produce 650 gallons of dressing a day by going with a co-packer that will assist with bottling and packaging of the products outside the incubator. "This is a huge accomplishment," says Gaye Sandoz, food incubator director. "Reaching the level of sales needed to be accepted by a co-packer is no easy task. Richard has a great product that we've enjoyed helping him improve, and he's worked very hard to market it and grow his business." Hanley's Foods was selling its dressing in about 30 stores when it joined the incubator. Six months later, the dressing was in 150 stores, and today the Sensation dressing is sold in stores across five states. As Hanley's sales grew, production of his salad dressing became an increasingly involved process. Hanley and a team of eight to...

LSU traffic engineer to discuss traffic flow

Traffic in Baton Rouge can't be fixed, at least not in a way that will make every driver happy, says Brian Wolshon, an engineer who studies traffic at LSU. Wolshon says engineers make decisions that will benefit the entire system, but those choices often require inconveniencing some drivers for the sake of the majority. For example, though the stoplights on interstate on-ramps at Airline Highway and Essen Lane momentarily slow drivers getting onto the interstate, they aim to keep traffic moving on the interstate. It's better to "have a few people inconvenienced for a few seconds, rather than hundreds of people," Wolshon says. Wolshon will lead a discussion on area traffic problems and the give and take of traffic flow tonight at Chelsea's Café, 2857 Perkins Road, as part of the LSU Science Café lecture series. Doors open at 5 p.m., with the talk to begin at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. "I think a lot of times people think traffic engineers are idiots, but there...

Drones to fly over downtown BR Thursday for parking study

If you see something strange flying over downtown Baton Rouge later this week, don't panic. Two drones will be buzzing overhead Thursday doing field research for the update of a downtown parking feasibility study. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be deployed several times during the day for two-hour periods to assess parking patterns on downtown streets and in surface lots. "Using drone technology as opposed to having people walk around on the ground and count the cars is a way to bring efficiency to the project," says Bob Schmidt, Louisiana transportation manager for AECOM, the engineering firm conducting the study. "It won't be a whole Air Force full of drones. One or two can cover a lot of ground, as you might imagine." The drones will capture aerial photographs that engineers will then use to determine where parking is available, where it's most needed and how levels of need vary depending on time of day. "We think it's pretty cool," says Davis Rhorer, executive director of the...

Capital Region home sales rise 2% in July

Home sales in the eight-parish Capital Region rose 2% in July compared to the same month last year. According to the latest monthly report from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, released this afternoon, home sales totaled 856 last month, which was 17 more than were recorded during the month last year. The average sales price declined 2.9% to $196,914. Home sales in East Baton Rouge Parish were up 1.5% last month—at 688, compared to 678 in July last year. Ascension Parish saw its sales climb by 36% last month, with 248 total sales compared to 179 during the month in 2013. Livingston Parish home sales declined 7.2% during the month, with 192 sales compared to 207 last year in July. Seven months into 2014 sales in the eight-parish region are tracking 3.2% better than they were last year. A total of 5,262 homes have been sold in the Capital Region this year, compared to 5,097 in 2013 through July. The year-to-date average sales price is $199,879 this year through...

Tax-free weekend for La. hunters set for Sept. 5-7

If you're scoping out a way to save a little cash as you prepare for hunting season, the state has something for you. As Gannett Louisiana reports, during the weekend of Sept. 5-7, hunters can purchase guns, ammo, archery equipment, clothing and even a new ATV without paying state or local taxes. Because state and local taxes won't be assessed, in some places that's roughly a 10% savings. The 2014 Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday applies to a wide range of hunting gear, including camouflage and other hunting clothing, socks, sweaters, jackets, hats, face masks, insulated underwear, gloves and mittens. Safety equipment, knives, game bags and other items are also exempt from taxation. The Department of Revenue says you can purchase tax-free off-road vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles designed and intended primarily for hunting. You can even buy a pirogue or airboat to get to the new blind or tree stand you purchase tax-free. But the Department of Revenue notes...

BR hotel tax revenue jumps in May, June

May and June were hot months for Baton Rouge-area hotels. Revenue generated by the local hotel occupancy tax jumped by more than 35% in May and rose by 12% in June, compared to figures from the same months last year, says Visit Baton Rouge. The local occupancy tax, which is 4%, is the sole source of funding for Visit Baton Rouge, which receives 3 of the 4 cents collected on every dollar spent at area hotels and motels. Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo says the May and June figures reflect the beginning of several major events and film productions this summer that helped boost the local travel industry. "Bayou Country Superfest in May was one of our best ever. That event, along with the Miss USA Pageant and the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III championships combined to make the summer travel season one of the city's best in many years," Arrigo says in a prepared statement. "Since Visit Baton Rouge is completely funded by the hotel tax, our work in promoting the city as a...

Clements puts 32 acres at River Park on the market

Developer Pete Clements says he is negotiating with two national real estate developers, both of whom are interested in buying large tracts of his planned River Park development and building apartments at the site near Hollywood Casino. Clements listed for sale 32.3 acres of the 36-acre downtown site, which he has been trying for several years to develop into a mixed-use development on the riverfront with entertainment venues, multi-family residential complexes, retail and office space. National real estate broker CBRE is listing the property on its website for an undisclosed price. Clements says since he began working with CBRE earlier this year he met with several potential buyers and is now down to two. One is interested in buying some land and partnering with Clements in a joint-venture to develop other parts of it. The other buyer is interested only in buying...

Transportation officials studying traffic solutions

The state has conducted studies aimed at relieving traffic near the Interstate 10 and Interstate 110 split, said Department of Transportation and Development Assistant Secretary Dennis Decker at a Leaders with Vision forum on Thursday. Studies have looked into the effect of removing the Washington Street on-ramp, just before the split on I-10 west. The department also investigated the safety of the Government Street on-ramp to I-10 east. There, drivers enter the interstate on I-110 as it merges into traffic coming from the Mississippi River bridge. Decker said neither study prompted any changes, that removing the Washington Street ramp would not have much effect and that the Government Street ramp didn't lead to many accidents after all. Because the interstates are federal roads, any changes would have to be approved by the feds, who may have bigger concerns with I-110, Decker said.

Executive editor: La.'s billion dollar wager

In his latest column, Business Report Executive Editor David Dodson wonders if there a sustainable, long-term supply of natural gas at steady, affordable prices, or if the shale gas boom is just a flash in the pan. Or, as energy skeptic and Peak Gas exponent Art Berman put it in a recent interview with Oilprice.com, is the current surge in domestic energy production a revolution or a retirement party? "The answer is of more than passing interest," Dodson writes. "If your answer is, 'Yes, we have 100 years of recoverable natural gas at prices the economy can sustain,' then you end up with the industrial construction boom everybody wants and expects in Louisiana, and that boom doesn't have a bust attached to its rear end. Louisiana rides the rails of prosperity for generations, all thanks to abundant and affordable natural gas (and of course, to our industrial and transportation infrastructure, our workforce, and our enviable geographic location)." But, says Dodson, "if your...

Time Out Lounge owners looking for new location

The owners of Time Out Lounge are beginning anew in their search for a new location for the bar, which was displaced when a December fire destroyed the Old Hammond Highway location that the bar had called home for seven years. On Wednesday evening, the Metro Council voted 8-2 to reject a rezoning request that would have allowed Kathleen and Jerome Byers to reopen the Time Out Lounge at 3180 Valley St., just off Perkins Road, behind the Bin Q liquor store. "We really weren't surprised because we went into the meeting knowing we were pretty much defeated," Kathleen Byers says this morning. The Southside Civic Association opposed the rezoning request, with representatives telling the council they don't want to see the addition of any bars in the area. Also, on Monday evening, the Planning Commission had

Stabiler buys more property near restaurant under development on Jefferson

Wayne Stabiler, the owner of restaurants such as Little Village, Le Creolé and Stab's Steak and Seafood, closed deals Tuesday on two properties worth $1.25 million that are adjacent to the site of a new restaurant under development. The restaurant is planned to open in the former Bank One building at 7666 Jefferson Hwy. The new properties are in the Bocage neighborhood at 7655 Rienzi Blvd. and 2620 McCarroll Dr. Stabiler says he doesn't yet know if those properties will be used in connection to the future restaurant. "We have no plans for it yet, but we'll get that together in the next 30 days," Stabiler says. As for the restaurant, Stabiler says he's not sure when it will open either. "Once the permitting is finished everything will move fast," Stabiler says. "We're set up to get everything moving as soon as permitting is finished." Stabiler bought the bank property in March for...

DSLD buys lots for Magnolia Lakes, Lake at Anselmo subdivisions

Denham Springs-based home builder DSLD has purchased additional lots for the third filings of two separate subdivisions in the Capital Region. DSLD bought 50 lots for the Magnolia Lakes subdivision off of Burbank Drive for $2.4 million from Magnolia Lakes LLC, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. It also bought 12 lots for the Lake at Anselmo neighborhood, just off Perkins Road between Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard, for $480,000 from Level Ventures LLC. DSLD partner Saun Sullivan told Daily Report after the company's second filing in Magnolia Lakes that it had a total of 100 lots at that time. DSLD prices homes in that neighborhood from $180,000 to almost $250,000. CFO Jeff Purpera Jr. said in April that he expects houses in the Lake at Anselmo to sell in a comparable range, for between $190,000 and $250,000. Construction on the second wave of Lake at Anselmo homes got underway early this summer. Purpera said the company plans to...

'Business Report': Is La.'s billion-dollar investment in film an economic boon or fiscal drain?

In 2002, Louisiana enacted a relatively modest Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit Program. Since then, lawmakers have expanded the program into arguably the most generous in the country. As Business Report details in its new cover story, the incentive program has made film and television a nearly billion-dollar industry in the state. Without question, the program has been wildly successful in attracting movie productions. In 2013, Louisiana hosted more major studio feature films than any other state, including California. Overall, Louisiana is competing with Georgia to be the No. 3 state in film production behind California and New York. Film incentives are doled out as tax credits; they're not really "tax breaks." Films typically are produced by single-serving limited liability corporations with out-of-state owners that don't have Louisiana tax liability. Producers can sell the credits on the open market or back to the state at 85% of face value. "It's not an investment,"...

Coursey Boulevard could see second Walmart Neighborhood Market

Walmart Stores Inc. has applied for a new building permit for a Walmart Neighborhood Market at the corner of Coursey Boulevard and Sherwood Commons Boulevard. The application filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works does not specify a street address for the proposed store. Both corners at Coursey and Sherwood Commons are currently occupied by a Shell station and ACGO Automotive, and there is a vacant lot that borders the Shell station to the south. According to the permit application, the project is estimated to cost $1.93 million and the store will measure more than 43,000 square feet. Walmart declined to comment on either the new project or whether it plans to keep open the Walmart Neighborhood Market farther east on Coursey near Jones Creek Road. Other recently submitted planning applications of note include:

La. attorney general sues State Farm over auto repairs

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell filed a lawsuit today against State Farm, alleging Louisiana's largest auto insurer is illegally steering customers involved in car accidents to repair shops that use junkyard parts and choose cheap fixes over safety. The Associated Press reports the lawsuit, filed in state district court in Baton Rouge, accuses the insurance company of violating Louisiana's unfair trade practices act with a systematic effort to lower its costs at the expense of its customers. Caldwell says his office's investigation started in March after receiving complaints from around the state about shoddy repair work. He said his office has found hundreds of violations. "We rely on our insurance companies to guide and direct us and hold our hands through the stressful process of an auto accident. ... But as our investigation has uncovered and our petition alleges, what happens next is often not in the best interests of consumers," says Stacie Lambert deBlieux, an assistant...

New planning director begins rewriting BR zoning code

The Planning Commission at its meeting Monday night gave Planning Director Frank Duke the green light to begin rewriting several areas of the city-parish zoning code that he believes are problematic—among them, the ordinance that governs the Historic Preservation Commission. Duke, who has been on the job since mid-June, says he's a big supporter of the HPC, which was created to regulate land use in the city's two historic districts and has often found itself in the crosshairs. But he believes the ordinance governing the agency is complicated and convoluted. "This ordinance requires a Certificate of Appropriateness for any change to the exterior of a structure—even if you cannot see what that change is going to do from the street," he says. "If you can't see it, it shouldn't be that big of a deal." Duke says he would like to simplify the HPC ordinance in order to make it easier for neighborhoods to become historic districts. At Monday's meeting, Duke also got approval to...

Andrews: Changing down payment requirements are good, bad news

Prospective homebuyers recently got a good news-bad news sort of report from Bloomberg. The bad news is that homebuyers are faced with higher down payment requirements to qualify for mortgages these days, delaying the ability for many potential first-time home buyers to own a home. Of course, these higher requirements are somewhat of a return to more traditional lending, and they get us further away from the days of easy money that tanked the housing market. Still, many of us have short-term memories and only remember those "good old days" of no money down. Requiring more of a down payment delays the purchase until buyers have saved the money needed for the loan. But this is also good news in that the pool of mortgages now being generated are of a much higher quality that will generate solid returns to mortgage investors who supply liquidity to lenders. And while this sounds like a better scenario for the big investment guys than the homeowners, we should remember that more quality...

Mid City business owners plan area improvements

An outdoor stage, green space and splash pad are in the works for the unused triangular-shaped median on Eugene Street between Boudreaux's Catering and Baton Rouge Magnet High School. The Mid City Merchants are pushing the project. Community Development Committee Chairman Coleman Brown said at a meeting this morning that the project will complement the state's plans to slim Government Street to three lanes. Brown said the area, which may be called Mid City Plaza, is projected to be 14,000 square feet. The group is also pushing several other projects, including returning Main Street and North Street to two-way roads east of Interstate 110; establishing a pedestrian crosswalk, similar to the golf cart crossing at Webb Park, where Capital Heights Avenue crosses North Foster Drive; constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Lobdell Avenue, Independence Boulevard and Government Street; and widening the entirety of Airline Highway from four to six lanes. Most of the Airline project...

Developers say reducing Government Street to three lanes won't hurt Mid City businesses

Laurence Lambert with Stantec, a development firm working with the city-parish and state to reduce Government Street from four to three lanes, told a group of Mid City business owners today that the project won't decrease the number of cars that drive by their businesses. Initial studies show that more cars may use the road because it will be more "user friendly," Lambert told a meeting of the Mid City Merchants this morning. "It's going to be easier to get in and out of your businesses," Lambert said. Lambert compared Government to a slalom ski course, with drivers rapidly changing lanes to avoid being stuck behind turning vehicles. Once Government has a turning lane and dedicated left turn lanes, Lambert said, drivers will be able to focus more on the businesses around them. Lambert said the goal is to finish designing the project by the end of the year and complete...

Metro Council to take up Time Out Lounge rezoning request Wednesday

Despite a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission on Monday evening to reject a rezoning request from owners of the Time Out Lounge to allow for the opening of a bar at 3180 Valley St., the Metro Council on Wednesday will take up the issue at its regular zoning meeting. Normally, a request that is unanimously rejected by the Planning Commission would not appear before the Metro Council, says Council Administrator Casey Cashio. However, a technicality has given the prospective bar owners another shot at having the rezoning request granted. Cashio confirms that since the issue was introduced, advertised and placed on the Metro Council zoning agenda prior to Monday evening's vote by the Planning Commission, which initially deferred the issue in late July, it will be heard Wednesday. However, because of the Planning Commission's unanimous vote against the measure, it will need to be...

Commencement for first-ever Home Builders Institute in BR is Friday

A new program aimed at teaching construction skills to area 18- to 24-year-olds who are disadvantaged, have not finished high school or do not have basic skills, will graduate its first class on Friday. Commencement exercises for the first-ever Home Builders Institute, which the Mayor's Office of Community Development is partnering with the Capital Region Builders Foundation to present, will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at the Family and Youth Service Center, 1120 Government St. The institute provides Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training curriculum over a 12-week program, including classroom, shop, lab and primary hands-on experience in carpentry, painting, electrical work, plumbing and other skills needed for careers in construction or facilities management. The mayor's office says the institute will now work closely with the Capital Region Builders Association to assist the program graduates in finding jobs in the industry. The Mayor's Office of Community Development is...

Atlanta company to invest $41.5M in West Monroe paper mill

Graphic Packaging International Inc. will spend $41.5 million in its paper mill in West Monroe to upgrade production machinery, company officials and Gov. Bobby Jindal jointly announced today. Today's announcement comes after the Atlanta-based company announced an $8.6 million enhancement and expansion of its consumer carton production in June 2012. That project created 47 new direct jobs and retained another 456 existing jobs at the company's carton sites, according to Louisiana Economic Development estimates. It also enabled the company to quadruple container production at the consumer carton plant and introduce new packaging for beverage product lines that saved 15,000 tons of paper annually and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 32%. LED says the investment announced today will retain a total of 1,340 employees at the company's three Louisiana sites. The state is providing Graphic Packaging an incentive package for its latest investment that includes a $720,000 Modernization...

Cook: Louisiana Culinary Institute buys office warehouse

Event Holdings LLC, an affiliate of the Louisiana Culinary Institute, has purchased an office warehouse on a 1 acre site at the corner of Jefferson Highway and Arnold Road. The seller, Topaz of Louisiana Inc., was represented by Scot Guidry of Mike Falgoust & Associates Commercial Real Estate. The culinary institute was represented by Bobby Smith of NAI/Latter & Blum. Topaz was an industrial pipe line contractor and had occupied the building since 1977 when it was constructed for their use. "In 1977 there was very little other development around the building but as the city grew up around it the building began to have more of an upscale potential," Guidry explains. The property is zoned C-2 commercial and includes about 8,500 square feet, of which 2,500 square feet is office space and 6,000 square feet is warehouse. The sale closed for $722,500, or about $90 per square foot. "I don't think we would have gotten $90 per square foot if the building were located inside an industrial...

One costly ride

Louisiana is the second most expensive state in which to operate a motor vehicle, according to a new Bankrate.com report.

Becoming a media darling

From time to time, business owners and professionals will get a call from a reporter who wants to quote you as an expert for a story, review your product, or invite you to write an exclusive article for a publication. It can be a major coup. It means that your marketing efforts are paying off.

Flimflam and fraud

Show business has a long history of, shall we say, "creative" accounting, while Louisiana government is known for a somewhat flexible approach to ethics.

Figuring out the ROI

So what's the ROI? It's complicated.

Recommended Reads

Dean, LSU College of Engineering

Transforming Mid City

On Aug. 18, the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority was scheduled to select one of two firms to do a $190,000 predevelopment plan for 115 blighted acres of inner-city property that sit between downtown, which is being transformed into a model live-work-play district, and Mid City, which is slowly being reborn as a funky, trendy arts district.

Rolling pipelines

The impending industrial boom will bring billions of dollars in investments and greater job opportunities to Louisiana. But with three of the nation's top 10 refineries and a sizable petrochemical presence calling this state home, the Capital Region will experience a significant rise in something else: hazardous material shipments by rail.

Inside the acquisition

As its name suggests, Business First Bank has positioned and promoted itself since the day it first opened its doors as a commercial lending institution with a focus on business clients.

Making a billion-dollar wager

There is an argument in philosophy known as Pascal's Wager. In essence, the argument is that if you find yourself forced to make a choice between two opposite and unknowable propositions, choose the one with the most upside potential.

Louisiana's billion-dollar investment in film:

In 1987, director Taylor Hackford and actor Dennis Quaid came to Baton Rouge to make Everybody's All American, about fictional 1950s football hero Gavin Grey. It wasn't the first big-budget movie to shoot in Louisiana, but the film business was pretty much a novelty here, and thousands of locals served as extras or body doubles.

Marsh Master buys site

A company that manufactures amphibious marsh vehicles has purchased a .92-acre lot on Highland Road with plans to expand.

Ardendale cleanup, property transfer approved by RDA

Plans for the Baton Rouge Community College's first buildings in the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority's Ardendale mixed-use development are closer to fruition. Two elements of the first phase of the development, located between Ardenwood Drive and Lobdell Boulevard, were approved by the RDA at this morning's meeting. The authority approved a contract worth $536,000 with Baton Rouge-based Wilson Kimble Contractors Inc. to clear out the area and ready it for construction. The job includes drainage projects that will work to satisfy the Army Corp of Engineers' environmental mitigation requirements for the development. The RDA also approved a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, its foundation and state departments. The development will see three buildings go up over the next two years, James Andermann, an RDA project manager,...

LSU creating tech and cyber research center to pursue federal, commercial projects

The state and LSU are partnering to create a new technology and cyber research center at the state's flagship university that they hope will land at least $10 million in research contracts by the start of 2016. LSU President F. King Alexander and Gov. Bobby Jindal jointly announced the creation of the LSU Transformational Technology and Cyber Research Center today, saying the goal is for the center to have secured at least $30 million in contracts by July 1, 2017. The center will pursue major federal and commercial research projects in applied technology fields. Initially, it will be funded in part by the state and LSU in a challenge grant configuration by which the state will provide $1 and LSU $0.50 for every $10 in research funds the center attracts in its first three years. The LSU Board of Supervisors still needs to OK the center's creation and funding structure. The center is aiming to raise $34.5 million in funding over its first three years, with $3 million to come from the...

New Beauregard Town apartments in the works

Beauregard Quarters, a new apartment complex in the permitting stages a block south of North Blvd., will open up more residential space in the downtown area. Steve Duplechain, the developer and manager of the $3 million project, says construction will begin as soon as permitting and fire marshal review is complete. Construction is expected to take a year. Duplechain says the four-story, 25-unit complex will include 15 two-bedroom and 10 one-bedroom apartments. It will face Napoleon Street at its intersection with America Street. The property spans three currently vacant lots. "We'll start promoting occupancies 90 days before we expect completion," Duplechain says. Covered parking, secure parking and some garage parking are planned.—Kelly Connelly

Home builder buys land for new subdivision in Central

Central-based Dunbar Construction LLC has purchased approximately 33 acres of land on the corner of Sullivan Road and Sparkle Drive for $1 million, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Home builder Justin Jackson, founder and owner of the company, says Dunbar aims to develop a residential neighborhood on the property, but adds that plans are still in the early phases. "We'd like to start construction next summer," Jackson says, "but we're waiting on the road to be finished right here—on Sullivan Road, which should be finished hopefully by next summer." Jackson says the subdivision will comprise approximately 80 lots, and homes will range from about 1,800 to 3,000 square feet. His company hasn't yet decided on a name for the neighborhood, Jackson says. "We're still working with the city" to get the details worked out, he says. —Rachel Alexander

Naaz Boutique closes its doors at Perkins Rowe

New Orleans-based Naaz Boutique has closed its Baton Rouge store in Perkins Rowe, which was located in suite E160 between Anthropologie and Sur La Table. The women's fashion boutique had a temporary tenant lease at Perkins Rowe, says Donna Taylor, senior vice president of asset management and new business at Stirling Properties, which in January became the property management company for Perkins Rowe. Taylor says the boutique closed its doors last month. "We have temporary tenant leases that we do at Perkins Rowe for tenants who come in and they're not quite sure whether or not this market is the right market to be in," Taylor explains. "In this case, Naaz found that [Baton Rouge] was not the market that they were going to be successful in." Taylor says that Naaz isn't relocating elsewhere in Baton Rouge. "They're simply closing [the Perkins Rowe] store," she says. Perkins Rowe does...

Judge rules in dispute over chilled water between Spinosa, Cinemark at Perkins Rowe

A federal judge has granted a partial victory to developer Tommy Spinosa in his long-running lawsuit with Cinemark Theatres over chilled water rates at Perkins Rowe. U.S. District Judge James Brady issued the ruling Aug. 6, nearly four months after a trial was held to determine whether Spinosa's water-chilling plant, Central Facilities Operating Company, has been overcharging the theater for the chilled water it needs to operate the air conditioner. Cinemark has maintained that CFOC's rates are unreasonably high and has, therefore, not paid for chilled water since opening at Perkins Rowe in 2007. CFOC says those unpaid bills amount to nearly $846,000. Cinemark contends that, based on fair market rates for chilled water, it should only owe about $235,000. In his ruling, Brady says the rate charged by CFOC was reasonable. He also denies Cinemark's claim that Spinosa defrauded the theater...

Restaurant IPO purchases downtown building for $2.2M

A little over two years after opening on Third Street, Restaurant IPO has acquired the downtown building from which it operates. Acting under IPO Baton Rouge Properties LLC, the locally owned restaurant purchased the building at 421 Third St. for $2.2 million, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Eric Macicek, co-owner of the restaurant, says there are no immediate plans to make any changes to the space. Macicek says Restaurant and Breakroom IPO—the bar located above the restaurant—will continue to operate as usual, while an adjacent suite in the building will continue to be leased to 3rd Street Pub. "We're just excited about having our own little piece of downtown Baton Rouge here," Macicek says, adding that the purchase secures the restaurant's downtown location for the long term. "We've seen the growth of downtown Baton Rouge and are excited about where it's headed," he says, "so we thought it was time for us to plant some...

Demolition underway on vacant portion of Esplanade Mall

If you've driven past the Interstate 10 at College Drive exit over the last day, you may have noticed work crews demolishing the long-vacant space in the back of the Esplanade Mall, which fronts Corporate Boulevard and includes such tenants as Sullivan's, Hooter's and the Melting Pot. Though details are scarce about the nature of the work, a permits officer at the Department of Public Works says Picou Brothers Construction Co. filed for a demolition permit to tear down the 30,000-square-foot space that formerly housed a bank services center. It sits in the rear of the 100,000-square-foot shopping center and has been vacant for several years. The property is owned by Richard Hartley and David Vey, who acquired it out of bankruptcy in 1993 for $3.5 million. They decline to comment on their plans for the property. Leasing agent Scott Bankston says he is not at liberty to comment. Agents with the property manager, NAI/Latter & Blum, say they are unaware of Hartley and Vey's plans. The...

Realtors group completes purchase of downtown BR home for new headquarters

The Louisiana Realtors Association is closing today on the historic downtown home at 821 Main St. that will be the site of its new headquarters. The sale comes almost six months after the association filed for permits to demolish the 90-year-old home to make way for a new office building. But after preservationists objected, it agreed to reconsider its request and eventually settled on a plan for an adaptive reuse. "This is a fantastic opportunity, and we're thrilled to be a part of the downtown community," says Norman Morris, executive director of LR, which is buying the property from Collis Temple, Jr. The sale price for the 4,500-square-foot building is approximately $650,000, though once renovations are completed the total investment in downtown will exceed $2 million, Morris says. Preliminary plans call for renovating the existing 4,500-square-foot structure and adding an additional 4,500 square feet onto the back of the house. State and federal historic tax credits will be used...

Quaker Steak & Lube to open in Gonzales shopping center

A roughly 15,000-square-foot shopping center set to go up in Gonzales near the Tanger Outlet Mall and Cabela's outdoors store will include the Baton Rouge area's first Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant. The center will also include a second restaurant, as well as enough retail space for up to four tenants, says Geno Iafrate, president and CEO of i-10 Hospitality, which is developing the center. Discussions are ongoing with prospective restaurant and retail tenants, Iafrate says. "We have had pretty substantial interest from regional and national concepts," he says of the restaurants that have expressed interest in the 3,500-square-foot space. Quaker Steak & Lube will occupy roughly 6,000 square feet in the center, for which a groundbreaking ceremony on a 2.5-acre site at 2706 S. Cabela's Parkway will take place on Monday, and the restaurant is expected to open sometime before Christmas. i-10 Hospitality

Mastering the master plans

Several firms are in the midst of redesigning areas of the city in ways that are a long time coming.

Uber eyes Baton Rouge Metro Airport for expanded operations

Uber, the transportation network company that began offering ride-sharing services in Baton Rouge in July, has filed paperwork with the Baton Rouge Metro Airport so that it can operate there. Airport spokesman Jim Caldwell says the San Francisco-based company has begun discussions with airport officials about how to classify UberX vehicles, which are neither taxi cabs nor limousines but provide rides to passengers for a fee. "It's all still being discussed ,and we haven't reached an agreement yet," Caldwell says. As a practical matter, that would mean UberX drivers are not technically authorized to drop off or pick up passengers at the airport. However, since those drivers use their private vehicles, it's difficult to regulate them. Caldwell can't say whether UberX drivers have been servicing airport passengers or not, and an Uber spokeswoman was unavailable for comment this morning. But Caldwell says airport officials continue to look at ways of drafting an ordinance that address...

La. ranked No. 5 nationally for share of residents with debt in collection

The average Louisiana borrower has debt of just under $4,200 in collection. And while that's the lowest average amount among all U.S. states, a new analysis from financial news website 24/7 Wall Street says the financial distress in the Pelican State is far more widespread than in most other states. Nearly 44% of Louisiana residents residents with credit histories had debt in collection last year, which is the fifth highest rate in the nation. 24/7 Wall Street says in an analysis of the numbers that low wages are one likely contributor to the high rate of residents with debt in collection. Louisiana is home to the third highest poverty rate in the nation, according to the analysis, with 19.9% of Louisianans living below the poverty line. Louisiana is also home to the nation's eighth lowest median income at $42,944. "Louisiana residents have lower-than-average credit card debts and smaller mortgages but take out larger loans for automobiles compared to most Americans," reads the...

BR leads nation again in quarterly housing survey

Though the numbers suggest the local market lost a little steam over the second quarter, Baton Rouge continues to lead the nation's largest metro areas in the latest Leading Markets Index from the National Association of Home Builders/First American. The quarterly report tracks approximately 350 U.S. metro areas and measures how they're performing compared to their pre-recession levels of economic and housing activity. Based on housing permits and prices, as well as local employment data, each metro area is given an index score. The nationwide score in the second quarter report edged up slightly to 0.89, meaning that based on current data, the U.S. housing market has not returned to its pre-recession normal and is running at 89% of normal activity. Baton Rouge's index score for the second quarter is 1.39, meaning it was performing 39% better during the quarter than it was before the economic crisis.

BR catering business nears opening of event facility in Prairieville

Lauryn's Fine Catering is less than two weeks away from hosting its inaugural event, a wedding reception, at La Maison De Bella, a new venue in Prairieville. Nineteen-year-old Morgan Leger—who took over as owner of the business just three months ago following the unexpected death of her mother and business founder, Lauryn Daboval—says getting the new venture up and running has been a family affair. "My grandfather's been here building floors, and my grandmother's been decorating," says Leger, who's beginning her second year at John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux. "It's a full family business, for the most part." Formerly a strictly catering and delivery business located at 16313 Jefferson Hwy., Lauryn's Fine Catering began renovations on a 10,000-square-foot warehouse building at 18380 Alligator Bayou Rd. in Prairieville earlier this year to expand its business and begin hosting events on-site. Leger says the Alligator Bayou property still needs landscaping around...

Andrews: Condos take backseat to townhomes in post-recession financing world

A client of mine recently described a potential development that was geared towards the vacation and leisure crowd looking for a second home. The concept and location looked great, but the big question was about the ability of purchasers to secure financing for their units. Taking a cue from my attorney friends I answered: "Well, it depends—tell me more." My interest was in the type of unit being considered and whether he was planning a condominium project or a townhouse project, because the end-user financing is not the same. After a little back-and-forth on the matter I contacted my friend Kenny Hodges of Assurance Financial to ask about the availability of financing for these units. According to Hodges, mortgage lenders can treat townhomes as conventional mortgages. "If they are townhomes and on or near vacation type locations, any lender can do conventional financing and treat the property as a second home," he says. "Townhomes are the key … condo financing is more...

Cook: Level Construction, Walk-On's complete deal for downtown property

A very complicated transaction involving a downtown property on Main Street and two prominent local companies has been completed for $650,000. As Daily Report first reported in May, the transaction was facilitated by Walk-On's Enterprises, which had outgrown its 4,500-square-foot property at 460 Main St. that it had rented for years from H & E Properties. Walk-On's has since moved its headquarters to a more than 7,000-square-foot space at 232 Third St. Level Construction, meanwhile, has also outgrown its 3,500-square-foot space at 450 Main St., which is next door to the former Walk-On's headquarters. Level has now purchased the former Walk-On's headquarters for $650,000, or about $154 per square foot, according to Mike Stinson with Saurage Rotenberg Real Estate, who brokered the transaction. "There were a lot of moving parts, trying to get more space for both Walk-On's and...

Top floors of IBM office tower in BR to be leased to commercial tenants

The top two floors of the new downtown IBM office tower, currently under construction on Lafayette Street at River Road, will be available for lease to commercial tenants. Though the 44,000 square feet of space on the ninth and 10th floors of the 220,000-square-foot building will not be available until 2015, New Orleans property management firm Corporate Realty is already marketing the Class A space for $30 to $32 per square foot/annually. That's more than 10% higher than the most expensive downtown office tower, II City Plaza, which rents for $28 per square foot annually; and more than 40% higher than the average downtown rate for Class A space of $21.75. But Corporate Realty President Mike Siegel believes there will be demand for the new property. "There's going to be a lot of interest," he says. "There is spectacular space with great views and great bones in the building." Each of the top two floors has 22,900 square feet of contiguous space available for lease. Though Siegel says...

French Market Bistro plans for expansion, improvements

French Market Bistro will soon become a little more comfortable, says Justin McDonald, who co-owns both French Market Bistro and Mansurs on the Boulevard. "We're taking over the suite next door and expanding," McDonald says. "The expansion is to give our guests more comfort in a couple of places: the restrooms and the bar." The restaurant currently operates out of suite B of Highland Place, a shopping center at 16645 Highland Road near Interstate 10. It will expand into the 1,800-square-foot adjacent suite C, which is on French Market's right if you're facing the restaurant. Suite C formerly housed Via Consignment Interiors but has remained vacant for about a year, McDonald says. The remodel will include new restrooms to the left of the entrance where the bar currently stands and a new and improved bar—which will feature a charbroiler for "our famous charbroiled oysters from Mansurs," McDonald says—in the new space to the right of the entrance. Other improvements include...

LABI: Louisiana needs additional tort reform

The Louisiana Legislature took positive steps to reform the state's unfriendly judicial climate in 2014, but significant changes still need to be enacted if the coming economic boom is to be a trend rather than the front end of a cycle that ends in bust, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry argues in a recent white paper, "Fact Sheet: Louisiana's Judicial Climate." "To harness the momentum of the economic success under way today, the state must tackle long-standing and persistent obstacles for growth, shortage of skilled workers, deteriorating infrastructure, excessive governmental regulations and mandates, and a highly litigious climate," the paper says. "Louisiana's reputation and reality as a poster child for lawsuit abuse is an ever-present challenge to businesses and citizens alike." Topping LABI's list of judicial reforms is lowering the threshold for jury trials from the current $50,000 to a number more in line with the national average. "Louisiana's bar for a...

New subdivision on Tiger Bend to break ground late fall

Plans for a new subdivision on Tiger Bend Road were among several planning and zoning applications submitted to the city-parish Planning Commission for today's application deadline. The subdivision, called Audubon Parc, will be located east of Jefferson Highway and just west of Chippendale Drive. The application includes plans for 47 residential lots, each of which average about 8,000 square feet. The subdivision's developers anticipate breaking ground sometime in late fall. Also submitted to the Planning Commission was Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews' application requesting to rezone the site behind BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Bar Louie at the Mall of Louisiana to CAB1. Tony Stephens, general manager for the mall, says that the 6,000-square-foot location for the Colorado-based burger chain is currently under construction and expected to open sometime between late October and November. —Rachel Alexander

Transformation of two one-way streets to two-way expected to improve downtown traffic

Two key downtown thoroughfares are getting a makeover that will transform them from one-way to two-way streets, a move that is expected to improve traffic flow downtown and make it easier to access the River Center Parking Garage. The streets are St. Ferdinand Street—which is one-way heading south and becomes Highland Road south of Interstate 10—and St. Louis Street, which is one-way heading north and becomes Nicholson Drive south of Interstate 10. Both streets will be restriped and redesigned with new traffic signals to accommodate two-way traffic. "This is implementing part of Plan Baton Rouge II," says DPW Interim Director Bryan Harmon. "It provides a little better circulation and access to facilities so you can have people coming in two different ways." For Downtown Development District Director Davis Rhorer, the changes, when completed later this fall, will be a boon for downtown. "It will remove the flow of St. Ferdinand northbound traffic into our residential areas...

Final investment decision announced on Cameron LNG project

Japanese partners in the Cameron natural gas liquefaction and export project in Hackberry announced Wednesday they have formally decided to go ahead with the $10 billion project that will send 8 million tons of natural gas to Japan annually from southwest Louisiana starting in 2018. The project entity has signed financing agreements amounting to $7.4 billion with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and commercial banks to develop and operate liquefaction facilities with an export capability of 12 million tons per year at the site of the terminal. CB&I will be a joint venture contractor working on construction of the plant. Cameron, Sabine Pass and more than two dozen other projects are in a race to sell relatively cheap, abundant U.S. shale gas to foreign countries where it can fetch higher prices. But just because Asian demand for natural gas is rising doesn't mean every project to serve the demand will go forward, The Wall Street Journal reports. Japan's demand for...

Baton Rouge construction company building $6.5M new headquarters

Baton Rouge-based James Construction Group—which has offices throughout Florida, Louisiana and Texas—began construction this week on a 35,700-square-foot office building at 18484 Petroleum Drive, which will serve as its new headquarters starting in April 2015, says Don Hoon, who's managing the project. The construction group is currently located in five different suites at 11200 Industriplex Blvd., and Hoon says the new office—projected to cost about $6.5 million to build—will allow the company to consolidate operations. "It'll be much more efficient," he says. "Right now, because we're in various locations, we have redundant services, and we have space that's not very efficient." Dallas-based Primoris Services Corp., the parent corporation of James Construction Group, purchased the land for the new office, located just off Highland Road, for a little under $1 million about two years ago, Hoon says. James Construction Group performs a wide range of projects...

'Business Report': Baton Rouge joins a global evolution in ground transportation

Baton Rouge is not typically quick to embrace change or newfangled trends. But earlier this summer, the Capital City collectively pounced on a stray suggestion in a media report that the transportation networking company Uber was considering coming to town. As Business Report editor Stephanie Riegel details in the magazine's new cover story, the swift and enthusiastic response to the mere possibility of this new way of getting around was noteworthy, even by Uber's own self-exalting standards. "That Uber was so sought after here before it even delivered so much as a single ride to a Baton Rouge passenger says as much about the state of local transit options in this sprawling, gridlocked city as it does about the ridesharing app," Riegel writes. "Now that it is here, though, will Uber do as well as initial enthusiasm suggests?" As much as Baton Rouge and Uber are feeling the love, the taxi industry is not, and the company actually got off to a rocky start when it began operating...

One big bank

The merger of Baton Rouge-based banks Business First and American Gateway will create what is expected to be the largest locally headquartered community bank.

Richard LeMoine

AGE: 41
THE FRANCHISEE: After two decades in retail, Richard LeMoine became his own boss so he could enjoy more time with his family. His career choice: selling cured and exotic meats.
THE FRANCHISE: Beef Jerky Outlet began its franchise expansion in 2010 and now has more than 20 stores, with twice that amount scheduled to open in the next few years.

In Conversation: Chris John

The oil and gas industry mostly got what it wanted during the last legislative session. But it continues to be criticized for damaging the coast, accepting tax breaks, fracking and other issues. Against that backdrop, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association in July released its latest report about the economic value of the energy sector, which says the industry supported nearly 300,000 jobs and $73.8 billion in sales in 2011 and contributed $4.2 billion to state and local treasuries in fiscal year 2013. The Grow Louisiana Coalition, established to promote the industry statewide, now can take those numbers on the road. Business Report spoke with LMOGA President Chris John the day the study was released.

Cook: New retail center planned for Bass Pro Shops tract

A vacant 5-acre tract in the Bass Pro Shops development in Denham Springs will soon be home to a 47,000-square-foot retail center, according to Joe Moore, of RE/MAX First, who brokered the sale of the property. I-10 Equity Partners LLC, based in Sulphur, is assembling the approximately 5.11-acre tract, which is located next to Cavender's Western Outfitters store, for the construction of the retail center. The center will house national chain Quaker Steak and Lube, a boutique dress shop, a cell phone service provider and a fitness concept, Moore says. The tract is being assembled for a total price of $2,335,469, or about $10.50 per square foot. According to Moore, 62% of the center is pre-leased in the $18 to $23 per square foot range. Construction should begin in the next two months.
(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore and Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or TCook@cookmoore.com.)

Andrews: When 'hustle' is not a good thing

I spoke at LSU's Fraud and Forensic Accounting Conference last week on the topic of structured finance fraud and was not able to get into an issue that was breaking just as the conference was being held. The federal government has filed several lawsuits against Bank of America alleging mortgage fraud at various levels, but the one that came to a head on July 30 was a little different—it involved funds used by BoA that came from a special governmental source and a little-known enforcement group using a novel legal approach. The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program was established by Congress in 2008 to prevent fraud, waste and abuse linked to the $700 billion relief program. TARP was the so-called "bank bailout" program initiated in 2008 to prevent widespread bank failures that would have crashed the U.S. if not the world economy. SIGTARP looked into BoA's mortgage activities after receiving TARP funds to see if there were any...

Mid City leaders, developers talk future of Westmoreland shopping center

Even with the Piccadilly Cafeteria in the Westmoreland Village Shopping Center closing at the end of June, interest in the 9.2-acre shopping center property's potential has resurfaced as several redevelopment initiatives for Government Street and the Mid City area gain momentum. "We're definitely sad to see [Piccadilly] go," says Samuel Sanders, executive director of the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. "But we remain very interested in what could become of that site." Sanders says the alliance is in ongoing conversations with Catholic High School, which purchased the shopping center under Hearthstone Properties for $4.85 million in late 2010. "We understand from their end that they are planning to put something out to invite developers to come out with their ideas," he says. "[CHS] is working on developing the RFP." The property includes the multi-suite building that Piccadilly...

Downtown law firm moving to be part of Nicholson corridor redevelopment

Williamson, Fontenot & Campbell LLC, a local law firm with offices downtown, expects to break ground on a renovation project for a new office space off Nicholson Drive by the end of the year, says Rob Campbell, a partner with the firm. Campbell says the new office—located at 955 McClung St.—will give the firm substantially more office and parking space, the latter of which is particularly scarce at the firm's downtown office, located at 343 Royal St. While the downtown office is about 2,000 square feet with two designated parking spots, the McClung Street office is approximately 3,000 square feet, and Campbell says the firm has plans in the works to renovate and expand the space and bring parking to a total of 14 spots. He says the firm has always been "a little behind the curve" when it comes to choosing a prime location, but he's confident the Nicholson corridor is the place to be. "We think that area is really going to blow up," Campbell says. "It could be one year, it...

'Times-Pic' adds Monday, Saturday print editions for fall

The Times-Picayune has announced it will publish two extra printed editions per week during the upcoming football and holiday shopping seasons. In a letter to readers, published online on NOLA.com Saturday and on the front page of the printed, Sunday edition of The Times-Picayune, the paper announced that as of Sept. 6 it will begin offering "bonus editions" on Mondays and Saturdays to its three-day, home-delivery subscribers at no additional cost. "The bonus edition will contain a full lineup of news, sports and entertainment news produced by Louisiana's largest news organization for the state's largest audience," the statement says. "Our readers' interest peaks in the fall and so does our advertisers' desire to reach them. So we are expanding our print coverage to meet the heightened reader intensity and to serve our advertisers, who depend on us to serve their customers." The move comes a little more than two years after the beloved New Orleans daily inflamed...

New Starbucks and Newk's Eatery in the works for Towne Center

New Orleans-based Vertical Construction Management has filed a plan review application with the city-parish Department of Public Works for the construction of a new 5,150-square-foot building in Towne Center Business Park for Starbucks and Newk's Eatery, a Mississippi-based café chain. As Daily Report previously reported, plans for the coffee shop and restaurant include renderings of a two-suite building on an approximately 1.7-acre plot—which Dallas-based Verdad Real Estate purchased for $1.66 million in June—between Chase Bank and Carrabba's Italian Grill on the corner of Commerce Circle and Corporate Boulevard. According to the plan review application, the building will cost $500,000. Other applications filed recently with DPW include:

Public Service Commission to question Cleco CEO about possible sale

Cleco Corp.'s top executive and several board members are expected to appear at Wednesday's meeting of the Louisiana Public Service Commission to answer questions related to a possible sale of the Pineville-based utility, The Town Talk reports. Bruce Williamson, Cleco's president, CEO and chairman, has voluntarily agreed to appear, along with at least four board members. In June, Cleco officials confirmed media reports that several parties had expressed interest in acquiring the company. Canadian group Borealis Infrastructure, Houston-based power company CenterPoint Energy Inc. and Spain-based utility company Iberdrola have all reportedly explored making bids. Cleco has had no comment on the sale process since confirming buyer interest in June. At that time, company officials said there was no definite timetable for the process and no decision on a potential sale had been...

Rosie the Riveter redux

Samantha Carney is training for a new career.

'Worse than it has ever been'

A glance at an occupational map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a surprisingly clear snapshot of the role that welders play in U.S. industry. Dark splotches depicting heavy concentrations of welding jobs splash across the width and breadth of the map, with a swath of the most intense employment covering the nation's midsection.
Demand for welders has outstripped supply in the United States for decades. But a surge of industrial activity and construction that took hold in recent years as the country emerged from economic recession has severely strained the labor pool in some areas.

Industry 101

The manufacturing boom. A new industrial revolution. A renaissance. The biggest industrial expansion in Louisiana's history—more than $60 billion worth.
Whatever you call it, it's quickly apparent that economic benefits aren't the only thing headed Louisiana's way. With it come significant demands, affecting everything from infrastructure and housing to education.

From welder to auditor to the world of fashion

It's hard to see the welder from Walker in the 29-year-old man with close-cropped black hair, black-and-white Chuck Taylors, tuxedo trousers, and black and gray checked shirt collared loosely with a turquoise tie in a half-Windsor knot. Doug Secrest has come a long way.

Uber invasion

Baton Rouge is not typically quick to embrace change or newfangled trends. But earlier this summer, the Capital City collectively pounced on a stray suggestion in a media report that the transportation networking company Uber was considering coming to town.

Bad roads

The Capital Region's infrastructure long has been strained, and our transportation shortcomings only appear more critical with billions of dollars' worth of new investments likely on the way. With that in mind, we asked our state legislative delegation to tell us what they think are our most pressing infrastructure needs, addressing which would help with the expected manufacturing expansion. Generally speaking, these projects have not been funded; think of this more like, "In a perfect world, what would you like to see?"

Sonya Burton

Business First Bank was just a year old in 2007, when Sonya Burton joined it in the role of internal auditor and compliance officer. "I was interested in Business First Bank specifically because it was such a young institution," Burton says. An alumna of LSU's Graduate School of Banking, she saw the move as "an exciting prospect": "To be able to establish a risk program from the ground up was a huge opportunity," she says. Her role at BFB grew "organically," in tandem with the bank's growth. "I was given the opportunity to view risk from a more comprehensive level," she says, "while we filled out the risk department with individuals who could specialize in a particular area." In March the bank announced that, to take advantage of strategic growth opportunities, it was reorganizing into three geographic regions, each with its own CEO, yet "centralizing enterprise risk management." Burton was promoted to the new role of chief risk officer, overseeing activities in all three...

La. has nation's best business climate, 'Business Facilities' says

Louisiana has been named the U.S. state with the best business climate in Business Facilities magazine's 10th Annual Rankings Report, released today. "Louisiana surged into the top slot in BF's annual state business climate assessment from last year's fourth-place finish. Utah, Texas, Tennessee and Indiana rounded out the top five, respectively, in this year's Best Business Climate ranking," says the magazine. Editor in Chief Jack Rogers says Louisiana has been a "perennial contender" for the top business climate designation in recent years, but that this year it was easy to place the state No. 1. "When we scrutinized all of the essential elements for a successful economic development program in today's highly competitive market—including workforce training, incentives, a business-friendly tax and regulatory structure, and a highly diverse, well-conceived growth strategy—we consistently found an aggressive standard for excellence in Louisiana," Rogers says. The...

EBR residential permitting up in June, commercial down

The number of permits issued for residential construction projects in East Baton Rouge Parish was up in June, while commercial permitting was down. According to the latest monthly report from the city-parish Department of Public Works, a total of 291 residential projects were permitted, up from from 203 permits issued during June last year. Six months into the year, residential permitting is down about 45%, with 1,053 permits issued thus far in 2014, compared to 1,912 through June last year. While total commercial permits were down in June, the city-parish signed off on some very large projects. The largest is the roughly 119,000-square-foot warehouse and beer distribution facility Crescent Crown Distributing is building at 9101 Tom Drive, valued at $9,657,000. The Arizona-based beer distributor with regional headquarters in New Orleans finalized its purchase of a 15-acre tract near...

Monsour says redevelopment authority funding to run out by end of next year

While the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is moving forward with plans for the redevelopment of the old Entergy site on Government Street and also getting ready to begin construction on Ardendale—the RDA board is scheduled to approve a contract for infrastructure work at its Aug. 18 meeting—the agency's funding remains in limbo. The RDA has about $1.5 million, which is enough money to keep its doors open through 2015. After that it will have to find a permanent source of funding to cover both operations and project costs. "If we've got 18 months of funding to keep us in business, we—the board and the community—have to collectively identify how the RDA is going to be funded," says RDA President and CEO Walter Monsour. "So far, all of our programs have been funded with grants or Community Development Block Grant funds or Gustav funds, and while RDAs...