Developers and downtown officials today unveiled plans and a rendering for an 80,000-square-foot Courtyard Marriott that will be developed on the surface parking lot at the corner of Florida and Third streets downtown. The new hotel—which will be the sixth in downtown Baton Rouge—will have 147 rooms and eight floors. Construction is scheduled to begin in April or May and is expected to take 24 months to complete. “This is a great corner that is in the heart of downtown,” says South Carolina developer Bo Aughtry, whose Windsor Aughtry Co. also developed the downtown Hampton Inn on Lafayette St. “We’ve been eyeing this corner for a long time.” Aughtry, who puts the total cost of the project at $20 million, had actually wanted to build the Hampton Inn on the Florida Street lot, but at that time its owners, Gordon LeBlanc and Tom Adamek, had hopes of developing the lot themselves. LeBlanc says they changed their mind after seeing what a good job Windsor Aughtry did with the Hampton Inn. “My only condition to sell was that I wanted to be an investor in it,” says LeBlanc, who with Adamek is a partner in Stonehenge Capital. He says the sale of the parking lot will not be finalized until next year. He declines to disclose the sale price, except to confirm it is between $1 million and $2 million.
For city leaders and tourism officials today’s announcement was another feather in their cap. That’s not least because when the new Marriott is completed downtown will have more than 1,000 hotel rooms, which is considered by some to be an important selling point to potential convention and meeting planners.
“This puts us in another category,” says Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge. “Beginning in 2017, we’ll be able to sell Baton Rouge as having more than 1,000 downtown hotel rooms, of which 650-700 are in close proximity to the Convention Center.”
Plans for a seventh downtown hotel are also in the works. Developer Mike Wampold has announced his intentions to redevelop the former Louisiana National Bank building—just one block away from the new Marriott site—into a limited service hotel, and has received authority from the Legislature to create a TIF district to help finance the project. Wampold had originally hoped to secure a Marriott flag for the property but was beat to the punch by Windsor Aughtry.
Aughtry says Wampold is “a really good citizen of Baton Rouge who has a great site,” but that Marriott prefers to build new properties rather than renovate old ones.
“I’m certain [Wampold] would have done it really well,” Aughtry says. “But the Courtyard brand prefers far and away to do a new construction, and with a new construction on this site they couldn’t go wrong.”