Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Tue, July 22, 2014

BRAF negotiating for lease of downtown parking garage

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is negotiating with the state to lease the state-owned parking garage at Third and Convention streets downtown for 91 years. Though details of the lease have not been finalized yet, BRAF spokesman Mukul Verma confirms the foundation is planning to lease the 466-space garage “to secure long-term access to parking for the Shaw Center for the Arts and community events.” BRAF also intends to sublease an undetermined number of spaces in the garage for “owners of private buildings.” Those buildings include the State Office Building at 150 N. Third St., which BRAF acquired from the state late last year and subsequently sold to developer Mike Wampold, who is planning to redevelop the building into a hotel. A spokeswoman for the Division of Administration says “several complex agreements are all being considered in the lease of the garage, including the Shaw Center Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, the sale of the State Office Building, and the CEA between the state and the city-parish.” She says further details will not be disclosed until the lease agreement is finalized. Downtown Development District Director Davis Rhorer says future plans for the garage appear to be positive. “When the garage was built, the intent was to serve multiple tenants and multiple purposes,” he says. “I’m glad that will continue because it has been a great success for economic development downtown.” Last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration announced it would lease the rights to the garage for $2 million to help balance the state budget, a move that is drawing criticism from some who say the state is ultimately taking a loss for the up-front cash. —Stephanie Riegel

LSU lakes need dredging to keep from returning to swampland, report says

The University and City Park lakes, as well as three of the four smaller lakes surrounding them, are too shallow and need to be deepened or they will eventually revert into swampland. That's according to the results of a study from Baton Rouge-based GEC Inc., which performed the study for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which is spearheading an initiative to create a master plan for the lakes and improve them. “There is good and bad news in the report,” says BRAF in a news release issued today.
GEC Inc. found University Lake is deeper than what was reported in a 2008 study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which recommended dredging the lakes and creating a sediment bypass system for a healthier habitat. Nonetheless, BRAF says the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' benchmark for a healthy lake depth is an average of 5 feet—and just one of the LSU lakes meets that benchmark. University Lake is about 4 feet deep on average, while City Park Lake averages 2.8 feet and the lake connecting them, Erie Lake, averages 2.2 feet. Located behind the LSU dormitories, Campus Lake is 3.4 feet on average, while College Lake averages 5.6 feet and Crest Lake—a preferred fishing spot off Dalrymple Drive—is 4.7 feet. The report will be used by SWA Group, which in June was selected to create the master plan for the rehabilitation of the LSU lakes, in association with Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects. —Steve Sanoski Read the full story.

Planning Commission defers rezoning request for new Timeout Lounge

Timeout Lounge owners Jerome and Kathleen Byers’ application to the city-parish Planning Commission to rezone property at 3180 Valley St.—which is off Perkins Road between College Drive and Stanford Avenue—from M1 to CAB2 for a new site for the bar was deferred for 30 days at the commission’s meeting Monday, says Kathleen Byers. Timeout Lounge’s former location in a strip center at 9374 Old Hammond Highway was destroyed in a fire late last year. The remainder of the center has since been cleared, and the property is now listed for sale. Byers says she and her husband had hoped to reopen the lounge in a space on the first floor of the two-story building at 3180 Valley St. in time for the first LSU football game, but the deferral will likely postpone that. The commission issued the deferral because it needed more information about the square footage of the building and the space Timeout Lounge will occupy, Byers says. Following minor interior renovations of the space, she expects to open the bar within a few weeks of securing approval. But a potential obstacle to the bar’s rezoning approval remains. Several representatives from the Southside Civic Association attended Monday’s meeting to object to the openings of additional bars in the area, Byers says. Calls to association representatives were not returned in time for publication this afternoon. —Rachel Alexander

Andrews: CFPB building financial capability across America

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has developed a strategy of educating consumers about services being offered in the financial marketplace to avoid a repeat of the many errors made during the Great Recession and to keep that marketplace strong. Over the past three years the CFPB has partnered with several other public and private agencies to target young people and provide a solid foundation for their financial literacy. In their second annual financial literacy report to Congress, the CFPB outlines many of their initiatives, including plans for owning a home. The plans include "a set of tools to help consumers make better decisions when shopping for a mortgage loan,” with an aim "to create a culture of shopping in the mortgage market by helping consumers understand what types of mortgages are available to them, easily make mortgage comparisons, and get organized to successfully navigate the mortgage shopping process." Until the full resource is available later this year, consumers looking to finance the purchase of a home can still visit the CFPB's Know Before You Owe website for help in making good decisions.

(Brian Andrews is assistant director of the Real Estate Research Institute at LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business. His private practice is Andrews Commercial Real Estate Services, and he can be reached at brian.andrews@acresllc.com.)

Editor’s note: Tom Cook is on vacation this week. His column will return to Daily Report next Tuesday afternoon.

Entergy to relocate distribution operation center to facility at Essen Lane

Entergy will soon renovate its offices at 5564 Essen Lane to prepare for the relocation of its distribution operation center, says Sheila Pounders, Entergy’s director of customer service. “We just need more room for our dispatch center,” Pounders says. “They were kind of cramped here at North Boulevard, so we wanted to give them more room.” The distribution operation center is currently located at 446 North Blvd., between the Old Governor’s Mansion and the new Holiday Inn Express, which is on track to open this December. Entergy will move some of the displaced offices at its Essen Lane building to the North Boulevard location when it transfers the distribution operation center, Pounders says. “We also needed a few more offices at North Boulevard, so the opportunity just worked out right,” she says. The remodel of the approximately 13,175-square-foot building on Essen is projected to cost $2 million, according to the plan review application filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works. Pounders says the renovations and move should be complete sometime next year. —Rachel Alexander

Common Core supporters file suit against Jindal

Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal today over his actions against the multistate standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy. Today's action marks the second lawsuit filed over Common Core in as many days. On Monday, 17 state lawmakers who oppose the standards lodged their own legal challenge, saying BESE and the state education department didn't properly enact the standards and seeking their immediate suspension. The lawsuit filed today says the Republican governor and his Division of Administration "have sown chaos in the education system" and violated the Louisiana Constitution by issuing a series of executive orders aimed at undermining Common Core. Jindal's actions don't comply with constitutional provisions that give education policy-setting authority to the Legislature and implementation authority to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the lawsuit alleges. "In an attempt to usurp the authority granted to the Legislature and BESE, Defendants have attempted to set their own education policy for students and schools in the State," the lawsuit says. Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education, echoing criticisms levied by tea party supporters around the country. Education Superintendent John White and BESE President Chas Roemer say Jindal overstepped his legal authority. But attempts to broker a compromise have failed, and the board is considering whether to file its own lawsuit against the governor. White issued a statement this afternoon saying: "Neither BESE nor the Department of Education is a party to this lawsuit. However, with school starting in three weeks, it is critical that our state resolve as soon as possible the issue of who determines the content of state tests." The governor says the suit “has no merit.” The Associated Press has the full story.

News roundup: Senate confirms BR attorney to US District Court bench … BR native named first president and COO of All Def Digital … Graves to host grand opening of campaign headquarters in BR

On the bench: The Senate today confirmed the recommendation for Baton Rouge attorney John “Johnny” W. deGravelles, to serve as an Article III judge for the U.S. Middle District Court in Louisiana by a unanimous vote. deGravelles, an attorney and founding partner at Baton Rouge-based deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus & Frugť, will take the seat formerly held by Judge James Brady, who assumed senior status in 2014. “I will be joining a stellar group of judges in the Middle District,” says deGravelles in a prepared statement. “I will work extremely hard not only to merit the confidence placed in me by Senator Landrieu, but to make a meaningful contribution to the fine work already being done by the judges and court staff in this District.”

Congratulations: Baton Rouge native Sanjay Sharma has been named the first president and chief operating officer of All Def Digital, a YouTube channel launched last year by Def Jam co-founder and music mogul Russell Simmons. As Variety reports, Sharma will be responsible for working with the company's founders on overall strategic direction as well as running all day-to-day business and operational affairs. He will also join the board of directors. Sharma, who now resides in Los Angeles, was one of the first employees at Machinima, one of YouTube's largest network providers, and also formerly worked in the business and legal affairs department of Warner Bros. Pictures. Read the full story.

New kid on the block: Republican Garret Graves is hosting a grand opening event from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday at his new campaign headquarters in Baton Rouge. Graves, who is among a number of candidates vying for the 6th Congressional District seat, will speak at the event, and his campaign says a new ad will also be unveiled. Lunch will also be provided. The campaign headquarters is located in a strip center at 660 Jefferson Highway that is anchored by Reginelli's Pizzeria. Graves, a Baton Rouge native, stepped down from his post as chairman of the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and director of the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities in late April after six years.
Sign up for E-Newsletters