Business First Bank moving Baton Rouge headquarters downtown

    Business First Bank announced today it will relocate its headquarters to the historic 500 Laurel St. Building, a six-story structure in the heart of downtown that was designed in 1955 by the late A. Hays Town.

    Business First Bank will occupy four of the six floors in the nearly 20,000-square foot building, which will house a full-service banking center as well as bank operations and corporate offices. The bank expects to relocate some 65 employees from its corporate offices on Jefferson Highway to the new downtown headquarters in 2016 once an extensive renovation is complete.

    “We are proud to be the only community bank in Louisiana choosing to establish its headquarters in our capital’s downtown area, one that is rapidly and visibly transforming,” says Jude Melville, Business First Bank’s president and CEO.

    Local architect Dyke Nelson, who has redeveloped several historic properties downtown, is an investor in the group that owns the building and will oversee the redevelopment of the building—a project that will cost an estimated $4.5 million. Nelson and his partners in 500 Laurel Development LLC acquired the building in late 2013 for $2 million.

    “This is great for downtown, and it’s a great building,” Nelson says. “It’s a classic example of midcentury modern architecture designed by one of Louisiana’s best-known architects.”

    Nelson has been working with the Foundation for Historical Louisiana to obtain state historic building tax credits, which will help finance the redevelopment by reimbursing the developer 25% of his cost. He will also use federal historic building credits, which bring in an additional 20%. Business First Bank is also helping to finance the project, which will include a complete interior and exterior renovation of the building.

    Business First Bank nearly doubled its size early this year, when it completed an acquisition of American Gateway Bank. The merger gave the bank 16 branch locations and more than $1 billion in assets.

    Business First Bank has been located at Jefferson Highway and Essen Lane since late 2009, having previously operated in the Esplanade Mall on Corporate Boulevard.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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