New fundraising effort for Lincoln Theater restoration begins
Those behind a years-long effort to bring the Lincoln Theater in Old South Baton Rouge back to its former glory are gearing up for a new run at raising enough private funds to finally restore the historic theater—with a long-term goal of expanding the property to make room for the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame Museum. A "Restore the Lincoln" fundraising campaign kickoff reception is being held Friday by the black history hall of fame and Foundation for Historical Louisiana. Attendees of the event will be shown plans for the first two phases of the restoration and asked to lend their support—and more important, their money. The first phase includes readying the property for a full renovation and making it environmentally safe, which means removing lead piping and paint, asbestos and mold. The second phase would restore the theater, which was built in 1950 and served as the premiere entertainment venue in Old South Baton Rouge. "This would bring the Lincoln Theater back to how it originally looked and make it operable," says Brenda Perry Dunn, founder of both the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame and Lincoln Theater Foundation Board. And then there's the third—and by far the most ambitious—phase of the project, which would see the property expanded for the two-story Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame Museum. This portion of the project is estimated to cost between $12 million and $15 million, Dunn says. Friday's campaign kickoff event will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the American Legion at 1132 Eddie Robinson Sr. Dr., just across the street from the theater. —Steve Sanoski Read the full story and see renderings of phase three of the project here.
This week's poll question: Do you think restoration of the Lincoln Theater would serve as a catalyst for other redevelopment in Old South Baton Rouge?
Construction on Harveston expected to begin in coming weeks
Builders received permits Monday from the city-parish to begin construction on homes in The Preserve at Harveston—the 95-acre, first phase of Mike Wampold and John Fetzer's planned 1,200-acre mixed-use development straddling the Bluebonnet Extension. Construction on the homes, which will be priced in the low-to-mid $300,000 range for smaller homes and close to $400,000 for larger properties, is scheduled to begin in the next two weeks. Five local builders have been selected for the project: Colby Constructors, Distinctive Homes by Watson, Dupree Construction, Fetzer Properties of Louisiana, and Unified Construction Group. Each builder will begin with three model homes, and will be required to follow strict design guidelines that detail the coastal/Creole/West Indies-architectural style that will characterize the development. Some 350 homes are planned for The Preserve, 93 of which will be constructed on a 33-acre tract that will be the first part of the first phase. Permits have also been issued for the clubhouse, which has been designed by Al Jones Architect. The 4,000-square-foot clubhouse will include a fitness center, pool, arbor and outdoor kitchen pavilion. It will also serve as the trail head for the first two miles of nature trails into the preserve. You can see a rendering of the clubhouse here. C.J. Brown's Cathy Cusimano will market the properties from a sales office that will be set up on site. Wampold and Fetzer say they have also been in preliminary discussions with a local private school interested in expanding at Harveston. Late Monday, the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission approved Fetzer and Wampold's revised concept plan for Harveston, which adds more than 600 acres to the total project. That land was always intended to be part of the development and will be used mostly for nature trails and a preserve. —Stephanie Riegel
Capital Region home sales 16% higher than last year through April
Bolstered by a strong April, in which home sales in the eight-parish Capital Region were up 28%, 2013 sales are now 16% higher than they were through April a year ago. That's according to the latest monthly sales report from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. A total of 2,545 sales have closed through April this year, compared to 2,193 in the first four months of last year. In addition, the region's average sales price in April, at $208,153, was also 12% higher than the $186,352 average price recorded in April 2012. The number of homes on the market during April, 3,938, was down 14% compared to last April, when 4,592 homes were for sale in the region. "The prickliest thorns in our collective side are still lack of inventory and subdued listing activity," reads the GBRAR April report. "In some neighborhoods, consumers have 50 or 60 percent fewer options from which to choose than they did a few years ago. That's causing bidding wars in popular areas." In East Baton Rouge Parish, closed sales were up 22% in April, 420 compared to 344 last year. Year-to-date, 1,381 homes have sold in East Baton Rouge, an increase of 18% over the 1,173 sales through April in 2012. In Livingston Parish, 136 sales were recorded last month, up from 107 during the month last year, and year-to-date sales are also up 14%. In Ascension Parish, 162 homes sold in April, up from 109 last year, and year-to-date sales are up 16%. You can take a look at the complete GBRAR sales reports for all months in 2013 here.
Cook: River Road industrial site sells
Hercules Trucking, doing business as Hercules Tec, has purchased a 43.9-acre tract on River Road, just downriver from Bear Industries in Iberville Parish. The sale closed on May 13 for $824,500, or about $18,780 per acre. The property, which includes 4.2 acres of batture with 308 feet of frontage on the Mississippi River, is an assemblage of two tracts. Trey Williams with NAI/Latter & Blum Realtors represented the purchaser in the transaction. The sellers, James Ralph Babin, Jerline Babin Hebert, Rita Delores Babin LeBlanc and Carol Ann Babin Landaiche, were not represented with an agent. Hercules' primary business is transporting propane and natural gas. The property will be used to develop a new facility, which will become the company's main office in the Baton Rouge metro area.
(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore and Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or TCook@cookmoore.com.)
Andrews: Big changes coming to HUD
HUD offices across the nation will be closed Friday as part of a program to reduce costs through unpaid furloughs. The closure means the offices will be shuttered for four days through the Memorial Day weekend, so anyone with time critical issues should plan accordingly. But the biggest news from HUD on cost savings is the consolidation of several offices into regional hubs, and Louisiana is significantly impacted by these plans. First, the multifamily production activities currently being performed from the New Orleans field office will be consolidated into the existing Fort Worth hub in Texas, representing one of five regions being established in this new plan. According to statements on HUD's website, "this simplified structure will increase national consistency across Multifamily." In addition, they also expect "that the more streamlined field management structure will streamline decision-making and enhance accountability." HUD addresses potential fears that a Fort Worth office might not have local knowledge of Louisiana markets by saying, "We already share applications in production across offices and project managers already manage assets remotely—which means that we are already sharing local knowledge." Indeed, many of our local deals already go through Fort Worth, so there is a base of local market knowledge already in place. The second change impacting Louisiana is the closing of the HUD Field Office in Shreveport and consolidation of operations into the Fort Worth office. Management companies who frequently contact the Shreveport office will have to forge new relationships in Fort Worth by the end of the year. It is hoped that these consolidations will save the government millions of dollars while speeding up the processing of multifamily loans. Time will tell.
(Brian Andrews is Assistant Director of the Real Estate Research Institute at LSU's E. J. Ourso College of Business. His business is Andrews Commercial Real Estate Services, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Real estate recap: Rouzan viable with or without a library, representatives say … MAPP, architects in settlement talks over Baton Rouge High … Marriott Residence Inn to get new look
In or out: If the East Baton Rouge Library Board of Control does, in fact, decide to pull the plug on the long-planned Rouzan library and relocate the branch elsewhere—as board members indicated last week that they may well do—the traditional neighborhood development is still viable. So says the lender on the project, businessman John Engquist, who acquired the mortgage on Rouzan from BancorpSouth last year. "That is a very viable, vibrant development with or without a library," says Engquist. "Would I rather have the library? Absolutely. But I would not say 'oh, no!' if it fell apart." Daily Report has the full story here.
Pending further discussion: Settlement negotiations are under way between MAPP Construction and the architecture firms that designed Baton Rouge Magnet High School's $45.9 million renovation project, and "significant progress has been made," according to MAPP's attorney, Gray Sexton. But there are still a lot of issues to work through before the lawsuit that MAPP filed against the firms last year is resolved. In September, MAPP sued Chenevert Architects, Remson-Haley-Herpin Architects, as well as a joint venture between the two firms, claiming an incomplete and defective design led to delays on the project and cost MAPP more than $6 million. Read the full story from Daily Report here.
Under renovation: The new owner of the Courtyard Inn by Marriott and Marriott Residence Inn hotels, both on Siegen Lane, is planning a complete renovation of the 108-room Residence Inn. Anticipated improvements include replacement of soft goods, upgrades to the guestrooms, meeting rooms and lobby area, and new signage. New York-based Lightstone Value Plus Real Estate Investment Trust acquired both properties earlier this month for $15.6 million. The 121-room Courtyard Inn by Marriott was renovated in 2010. Both hotels were developed and previously operated by the Florida-based Olshan Hotel Management.