Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Mon, September 22, 2014

BRAF real estate arm buys Main Street building for $2.2M

Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation's real estate company, has purchased the downtown building at 500 Main St. that is home to Stantec, formerly ABMB Engineers, for $2.2 million. In a sale that closed on Thursday, CPRT 500 Main LLC—which was incorporated in May by Commercial Properties General Counsel Ty McMains—purchased the building from Highland Road Properties Inc., which is owned by Mike Bruce, Mike McGaugh and Steve Boudreaux. All three are principals of ABMB, which was acquired by the Canadian engineering firm Stantec in 2012. Bruce declines to comment on the sale this morning, but sources familiar with the transaction say the firm has no plans to move at this time and will continue to lease the building from CPRT. A BRAF spokesperson did not return a call for comment by this morning's deadline. Last week CPRT celebrated the groundbreaking of Onyx Residences, a $7 million, mixed-use development at the corner of Third and Convention streets that is expected to be completed in about a year. On Wednesday, the Metro Council will consider approval of a deal with BRAF to operate the parking garage at Third and Convention streets. As Daily Report has previously reported, the deal is tied to other transactions at the Water Campus—which is another massive project downtown that is the brainchild of BRAF. The foundation also partnered with the state and the city to acquire the riverfront land for development of the IBM complex downtown, and earlier this year BRAF sold developer Mike Wampold the former state office building at 150 N. Third St., which Wampold plans to develop into a hotel. —Stephanie Riegel

Editor: Questions abound in city-parish deal with BRAF for downtown parking garage

Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel says that although the Metro Council will likely sign off on an agreement with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation over the state-owned parking garage downtown at Third and Convention streets at its meeting Wednesday, council members have questions about it—even though Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel tried to assure them that approving it is in everyone's best interest. "It may be," Riegel writes in her latest column. "There just hasn't been enough transparency until now to know for sure." There's a lot at stake in the garage deal, Riegel says, and much of the machinations leading up to the 91-year, $2.2 million lease between BRAF and the state—and the related agreement between BRAF and the city-parish—have been going on behind the scenes, particularly with respect to what the city-parish gets out of it and how it will affect the public, if at all. "Questions, actually, have been swirling about the deal since last summer, when the state announced it was leasing the garage to BRAF for what, arguably, is a discounted price," Riegel writes. "The state says it did several appraisals and got the highest appraised value for the facility; never mind that it also got a cash infusion to plug a revenue shortfall. Not everyone agrees, though, including the state attorney general. The garage is a prime piece of real estate in a booming downtown with a shortage of parking." It reportedly generates between $300,000 and $400,000 annually, Riegel says. And what's more, it has 466 spots, with an estimated market value of $15,000 each. That puts the value of the garage at possibly as much as $7 million, not $2.2 million. Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

Today's poll question: Do you think the Metro Council should sign off on a new agreement with an affiliate of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for it to operate the state-owned parking garage at Third and Convention streets?

Mid City butcher shop to open in mid-November

Steven Diehl of Good Diehl, a personal chef service, is bringing a new butcher shop and quick service restaurant to Mid City in mid-November. Called Twine: Modern Meat Market, the shop will offer cuts of meat along with prepared dinners and side dishes, made with locally sourced products. "I am excited to open a market that will benefit local farmers and bring great products to the shelves for purchase all week long," Diehl says in a press release issued this morning. Diehl says he hopes to connect shoppers with the sources of their food and build a relationship as their butcher. Twine will also be open six days a week for lunch, focusing on a carryout service. Twine will occupy the former Unique Catering building at 615 South Acadian Thruway, a block south of the thruway intersection with Government Street. "We love Mid City, and there's not a shop in the area that offers anything similar. We feel like the area would appreciate what we have to offer," Diehl says. The shop will draw from a range of farms as close as New Iberia and Kentwood and into southern Mississippi. Diehl says he isn't worried about any shortage of product. "There are tons of farms that are excited for us to open sooner rather than later," he says. There will be seating for 10 to 20 patrons, including outside seating. Diehl says the restaurant may look to expand seating in the future. —Kelly Connelly

Alexander: Transparency, outcomes measurements key to future of higher education

LSU President F. King Alexander is one of six national higher education leaders tapped by U.S. News and World Report to pen an op-ed about the industry's future. In his op-ed, Alexander focuses on the need for colleges and universities to increase transparency and commit to better measuring outcomes. "The future of higher education depends on transparency and a commitment to measuring outcomes and value," Alexander writes. "As higher education leaders, we need to use data to demonstrate both the economic and social benefits of higher education." Alexander, who has long been among higher education leaders who back President Barack Obama's proposed scorecard for U.S. colleges and universities, says not all institutions produce comparable outcomes. "Colleges and universities now operate in an overcrowded academic marketplace that provides students and parents virtually no information about graduate outcomes," he writes. "For decades, publicly subsidized institutions have gotten away with telling their constituencies to trust them because, ultimately, the investment will be worth it. This 'secret garden' approach of providing limited information led to significant market failure in higher education and inflated costs as many schools strive to outspend their counterparts instead of demonstrating real value to potential students." Read Alexander's complete op-ed. Other higher education leaders writing op-eds for the publication are: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Foltor; Rensselaer Polytechnic University President Shirley Ann Jackson; Villanova University School of Business Dean Patrick Maggitti; Western Governors University President Robert Mendenhall; and Cornell University President David Skorton. Access all of the op-eds.

BR-shot 'The Maze Runner' tops box office in opening weekend

Despite somewhat slow sales for its Thursday night and Friday matinee shows, The Maze Runner finished strongly to gross an estimated $32.5 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, topping the box office and solidly meeting expectations. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the film adaptation of a young-adult book of the same title—which was made for roughly $30 million and shot primarily in the Baton Rouge area—sped past other new releases this weekend. The Liam Neeson thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones came in second with $13.1 million, followed by the comedy-drama This Is Where I Leave You, which took in $11.9 million. Maze Runner production designer Marc Fishichella recently spoke with 225 about shooting the film here. He says designing the main attraction—a gigantic maze with movable stages and challenges the characters must face in their attempts to escape—was not without its challenges. "We did our major set building in an empty Sam's Club in Baton Rouge," he says. "We had to scramble to find the warehouse space to build it. We're used to doing this kind of intricate shooting in a sound stage with 40-foot ceilings and clear areas of 32,000 to 35,000 square feet. We were very tight in there and had to adapt." Read the full story.

'Business Report' seeking list info from local businesses

Business Report is in the process of compiling new rankings of financial investment firms, staffing and employment agencies, fitness facilities and golf courses in the Capital Region. The magazine is now accepting new and updated information from firms eligible for inclusion on the lists, which will be published in upcoming issues. There is no charge to be considered or included on any of the magazine's lists or directories. Financial investment firms can submit information here. The deadline is Friday at 5 p.m. Staffing and employment agencies also have until Friday to submit information online. Fitness facilities have until 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 1, to make submissions. And golf courses also have until Oct. 1 to submit information online. Any questions about submissions or the lists can be directed to Sierra Crump, director of research, at (225) 421-8105 or scrump@businessreport.com.

News roundup: George Mills named president and CEO of Hope House US … New wave of Central American immigrants flocking to NOLA, waiting on hearings … Black lawmakers target Louisiana Senate race

On solid ground: Hope House U.S., the Louisiana-based home for victims of sex trafficking, has named George Mills as its president and CEO. The organization says Mills developed and managed the Cenikor Foundation's Louisiana operations for more than 17 years, expanding it from an outreach office in a local community center into a 230-bed long-term residential facility in Baton Rouge providing outpatient and mental health counseling services. Hope House U.S. opened in September last year.

Home away from home: The Wall Street Journal reports a new wave of migrants from Central America—primarily Honduras—is arriving in Louisiana. Between January and July 31, nearly 1,300 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors in the state, the vast majority in greater New Orleans. This new group represents about 13% of the state's foreign-born children, according to government data, and the newspaper reports many of the immigrants are staying in New Orleans while they await deportation hearings. Read the full feature.

Looking to Louisiana: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus plan to travel to Louisiana to try to boost black voter turnout—a key to a victory for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in November. "Landrieu is a real focus,'' Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the 42-member caucus of Democrats, tells The Shreveport Times. "We have to keep the Senate.'' Landrieu is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a tea party favorite. Blacks make up 30% of the state's population. "In a race that's going to be close—clearly we tip the scales,'' says Fudge of black voters. "So we're going to be spending a lot of time in Louisiana.'' Read the full story.

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