Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Mon, January 07, 2013

Siegen Lane apartment complex sells for $30M

Tuscany Villas Apartments, an upscale complex at Siegen Lane Marketplace, has been sold to a group of Los Angeles-based investors for $30.25 million. QVT Mount Auburn Capital LP bought the 274-unit complex from New Hope Investors-Tuscany, a group of local investors that had bought the complex for $27.8 million in July 2011 from Tuscany Reserve, which originally developed the complex. Robert Peek, who manages Tuscany Villas for Amesbury Companies, says the apartment complex generated a lot of interest from potential buyers. "We listed it in July and sold it on the 21st of December—the whole process," says Peek, who was also one of three developers behind Tuscany Reserve, which opened the apartment complex in spring 2008. Three years later the 12-acre complex was sold to New Hope Investors, led by John Noland, Hardy Swyers and Henry "Chick" Miller. —Adam Pearson

Aging baby boomers, longer life spans generate growth in B.R. senior living facilities

When St. James Place opened its doors in 1983 on Lee Drive in Baton Rouge, the sprawling 52-acre full-service retirement community was not only the first of its kind in the city, it was the only such facility in Louisiana. "Back in those days there was just no facility for independent senior living … and most of the nursing homes in those times were kind of like a ward," recalls Lee Griffin, who served as St. James Place's first board chairman and has been on the board several times since but is no longer a board member. "There are many nice nursing homes and assisted living facilities now, but back then they weren't very pleasant places to be. There just wasn't many options; even finding an in-home sitter for seniors was difficult." In the 30 years since St. James Place opened, dozens of senior living, assisted care facilities and nursing homes have opened throughout the Capital Region. The local growth of the industry mirrors that seen nationally. Changing demographics—specifically an aging baby boom generation—are a key reason for the growth. Also, people are living longer due to medical advancements. Griffin says the changing nature of modern families is also contributing to the increased demand for senior living facilities and services. "Today you have something like 80% to 90% of married households in which both people are working, making it harder for them to take care of aging parents," he says. "Now that there are alternatives outside of nursing homes, or hiring someone to sit with an aging parent or doing it yourself, I think that's really helped the industry grow." —Steve Sanoski

Law enforcement: Preventing incidents like Saturday mall melee a challenge

Perhaps it's because it was an otherwise slow Saturday night. Perhaps it's because of the recent spate of violent incidents in public venues across the country. Whatever the reason, the story of the melee that broke out Saturday evening in the food court of the Mall of Louisiana involving some 200 local teens went viral and topped the list of trending stories for much of Sunday on websites such as Yahoo! News and Google. While there's no way to do damage control in the age of social media, local law enforcement and elected officials are grappling with how to prevent such incidents from happening again. There's no clear-cut solution. Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe, who tried unsuccessfully in 2011 to pass an ordinance that would have applied the existing 11 p.m. curfew to 17-year-olds, says he still favors a curfew as a potential solution. But a curfew wouldn't have made any difference Saturday night: The fight broke out in the early evening, and many of the kids involved were too young to drive anyway. Councilman Joel BoÚ suggests that parents shouldn't "use mall cops and store workers as babysitters." But as a practical matter, District Attorney Hillar Moore III says it would be legally impossible to ban unattended minors from a shopping center. —Stephanie Riegel Read the full story here.

Today's poll question: Does Saturday's incident at the Mall of Louisiana make you any less likely to visit the mall?

La. gets top ranking for pro-student education policies

StudentsFirst—an advocacy group promoting education reform through teacher tenure overhauls, introducing the use of standardized test scores in performance evaluations, and charter school expansion—places Louisiana at the top a new ranking for states implementing such policies. Both Louisiana and Florida received a "B-" grade in the ranking, with no states receiving a higher grade. However, Louisiana is ranked No. 1 overall in the report, just ahead of Florida. Twelve states received an "F" grade in the report, reflecting StudentsFirst's willingness to build a reputation as a harsh grader. The ratings focus purely on state laws and policies, and do not take into account student test scores. "This report confirms that Louisiana is now leading the nation in education reform because of our commitment to put a great teacher in every classroom and give every child the opportunity to get a great education," says Gov. Bobby Jindal in a prepared response to the rankings. "Our reforms are working—parents finally have more choices, student scores are up, and teachers are being rewarded for their hard work." Michelle Rhee, leader of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools, tells The New York Times the relatively weak state grades in the report reflect how recently statehouses have begun to address issues such as teacher tenure and performance evaluations. Louisiana's overall grade was derived from several components; the state received an "A" for elevating teaching, a "C" for empowering parents, and a "C-" for spending wisely and governing well. The report card says Louisiana must strengthen its accountability framework for all public charter schools and ensure students attending private schools through public scholarships are meeting academic goals. It adds that teachers could be offered the portable, cash-balance retirement option that is available to other state employees.

Bank of America in mortgage settlement totaling more than $10B

Bank of America says it will spend more than $10 billion to settle mortgage claims resulting from the housing meltdown. Under the deal announced this morning, the bank will pay $3.6 billion to Fannie Mae and buy back $6.75 billion in loans that the North Carolina-based bank and its Countrywide banking unit sold to the government agency from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2008. That includes about 30,000 loans. CEO Brian Moynihan says the agreements were "a significant step" in resolving the bank's remaining legacy mortgage issues while streamlining the company and reducing future expenses. Bank of America bought Countrywide Financial Corp. in July 2008, just before the financial crisis. Countrywide was a giant in mortgage lending, but was also known for approving risky loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which packaged loans into securities and sold them to investors, were effectively nationalized in 2008 when they nearly collapsed under the weight of their mortgage losses. Bank of America's purchase of Countrywide originally was lauded by lawmakers because the bank was viewed as stepping in to eliminate a bad actor from the mortgage market. But instead of padding Bank of America's mortgage business, the purchase has drawn a succession of regulatory fines, lawsuits and losses. Bank of America says that the loans involved in the settlement have an aggregate original principal balance of about $1.4 trillion. The outstanding principal balance is about $300 billion. More details can be found in the full story here.

Fracking with natural gas could trim fuel costs by as much as 40%

Apache Corp. this month is set to become the first company to power an entire hydraulic fracturing job with engines running on natural gas, cutting fuel costs by about 40%, an executive tells The Houston Chronicle. The Houston-based oil and gas company has been working in recent months with Schlumberger, Halliburton and Caterpillar to advance its use of natural gas in oil field operations, says Mike Bahorich, Apache's executive vice president of technology. The goal is to reduce costs, while increasing use of the domestically produced fossil fuel and cutting emissions, Bahorich adds. Other companies have fueled part of their fracking projects with natural gas, but Apache plans to be the first to run a full spread of 12 hydraulic fracturing pumps on the fuel this month. "I would challenge you to think of an idea that could generate more value for our economy and our environment than switching from oil to natural gas," Bahorich says. The full story can be found here.

News roundup: LSU AgCenter extension director announces Sept. 15 retirement … Nicholls completes stadium renovations … Lenovo to release giant 'interpersonal computer'

Off the vine: Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, has announced he will retire Sept. 15 but continue in his present duties until July 1. Coreil has been in his current position for 12 years and with the AgCenter for more than 34 years. "I owe much of my life and any small successes I have accomplished as an extension professional to the AgCenter, our stakeholders, and the hard-working faculty and staff who improve the lives of so many statewide," says Coreil in a prepared statement. The AgCenter has more details here.

Calling all Colonels: The face-lift of Nicholls State University's football stadium is finished, a little behind schedule but on budget, reports The (Thibodaux) Daily Comet. The more than $1.3 million project focused on replacing the stadium's 40-year-old, six-person elevator, which had become dangerously unstable. Renovations to John L. Guidry Stadium also included a fašade upgrade, a lobby enlargement and a patio addition to the front of the stadium. Check out the full story here.

Sizing it up: Dismayed that family members are spread out around the house, each with a separate PC or tablet? Lenovo has something it believes will get them back together: a computer the size of a coffee table that works like a gigantic tablet and lets four people use it at once. Lenovo Group Ltd., one of the world's largest PC makers, is calling the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC the first "interpersonal computer"— as opposed to a personal computer. Check it out here.

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