Holding it together – TOMMY SPINOSA, 58, Developer of Rouzan and Perkins Rowe

Baton Rouge Developer Tommy Spinosa spent a good part of 2009 in the public eye, and 2010 promises more of the same.

Just as Perkins Rowe was hitting its stride as a hot spot for shopping, dining and entertainment, liens and lawsuits by various contractors seeking payment for services started to stack up and make headlines.

Spinosa argued he was justified in withholding payments, fighting the suits separately in court. But at the end of July, a group of nine lenders, including Key Bank, filed a foreclosure lawsuit on Perkins Rowe in U.S. District Court.

That pending suit seeks to take ownership of the sprawling multi-use development at Perkins Road and Bluebonnet because, the plaintiffs argue, Spinosa has paid back only a small portion of the $170 million debt on the property.

Spinosa declined our requests for an interview, choosing not to participate in this story.

It’s not difficult to imagine why he might not be in the mood to talk about business, especially if that includes trying to predict what’s next.

The national economy in general—and real estate in particular—took a nosedive since Spinosa first began and secured funding for Perkins Rowe.

Meanwhile, as reported recently in Baton Rouge Business Report, Spinosa’s Echelon Construction Services is fighting in St. Tammany Parish court with dozens of contractors. They claim they’re owed millions of dollars for work on Chenier, a mixed-use development in Mandeville.

As if all that weren’t headache enough, Spinosa has yet another major hurdle ahead in 2010. He faces a September deadline to get the ball rolling on Rouzan. If he doesn’t make adequate progress on the controversial traditional neighborhood development near Southdowns, he faces having to resubmit the final development plan to the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission.

As it stands, some land work has begun there, but as of this writing the developer had not yet filed a final site plan with the Department of Public Works, nor were permits filed.

Spinosa began 2009 with momentum, the planning commission having approved plans for two components of Rouzan (a public library and a three-story, 25-unit apartment building).

But that was only after an onslaught by Metro Councilman Smokie Bourgeois, who warned that all those liens and lawsuits in connection with Perkins Rowe were ominous portends.

Time will tell if Bourgeois’ concerns were on the mark.

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