Behind John Engquist’s deal to buy Rouzan and what’s next for the development

    After years of controversy from neighbors in Southdowns and financial troubles with other projects, developer Tommy Spinosa had finally seemed to find his footing with Rouzan, his 100-acre traditional neighborhood development in the heart of Southdowns.

    Home sales were going well, builders were buying in, and commercial tenants were signing letters of intent.

    Then, in 2017 Spinosa’s lender on the project, New Orleans-based First National Bank of Commerce, went belly up and federal regulators shut it down. Spinosa essentially lost his financing and, therefore, his ability to even execute a purchase agreement or sign a lease.

    “If the bank hadn’t failed and had continued to fund Tommy, he would’ve gotten this thing developed,” says businessman and real estate developer John Engquist, who earlier today acquired Rouzan, as first reported by Daily Report. “But when the bank failed it shut everything down.”

    Engquist and his partners in the deal—attorney Charles Landry and builders Todd Waguespack and Ryan Engquist—acquired the development in a complex series of transactions that included buying all of Spinosa’s real estate debt from the lenders that had bought it from the FDIC after FNBC’s failure. They decline to say what they paid for the entire package, but say the residential portion of the deal cost $21 million.

    The total package was “a lot more than that,” Landry says.

    Two separate entities will own the 65-acre residential and 32-acre commercial portions of the development and Spinosa will remain an investor in the commercial portion, which has yet to be developed. The Engquist-led team will own 100% of the residential portion.

    “The important thing is that John is the sole manager of both,” Landry says.

    It’s important because Spinosa sold Rouzan as a high-end development, yet none of the amenities he promised residents has yet to materialize. Engquist and Landry say that will soon change. Next week, they intend to start tidying up the development, which has about 75 completed residential lots, 130 partially-completed lots, acreage for 200 additional lots and still more undeveloped land for commercial, office and multifamily developments.

    Also on the short-term to do list will be construction of a clubhouse, pool, walking trails and a dog park. Engquist also plans to immediately replace Spinosa’s construction trailers on the corner of Perkins Road and Glasgow Avenue with an office building that will serve as the development office and also be available for lease to third-party tenants.

    As for Rouzan’s much-discussed and long-awaited commercial development, Engquist says he has no specific plans or timeline but would like to attract a grocery store, restaurants and a select mix of retail tenants. A south branch library, once planned by Spinosa to be the anchor tenant of the development, is a possibility but only a remote one.

    “That’s not something that would be a critical component for us,” Landry says.

    With the acquisition of Rouzan, Engquist—who is also CEO of H&E Equipment Services—now owns three major real estate developments in Baton Rouge, and several out of state. He and Landry are behind Americana in Zachary, Adelia at Old Goodwood and projects in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

    Rouzan, however, is unique among them, Engquist says.

    “It’s a very, very special piece of property,” he says. “That location, 100 acres in the heart of Baton Rouge, that is a special piece of property.”

    —Stephanie Riegel

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