Water Campus expected to have 'ripple effects' across Capital Region
The Riverview Room at the River Center was the perfect setting for Gov. Bobby Jindal to unveil ambitious plans for the Water Campus
—a world-class, multi-million-dollar research institute and commercial campus expected to attract science and commerce from around the globe to Baton Rouge's riverfront. With the grandiose view of the water and the towering Mississippi River Bridge as backdrop, Jindal was suitably framed to deliver a message that clearly elated the gathering of local and state government and business luminaries. As reported by Daily Report
this morning, the Water Campus might serve not only as a magnet for innovation and commerce
related to coastal preservation and restoration, it could remake how Baton Rouge utilizes its waterfront property
along New Urbanist design principles. "Huge ripple effects downtown and all throughout the city" will result, says DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer. "It is an urban response to suburban sprawl." BRAC Executive Director of Business Development Iain Vasey says the announcement marks a change in attitudes. "It almost seemed like for a few years, the community had turned its back on the river," Vasey says. "But if you look at what's happening here and combine that with the IBM and Commercial Properties Realty Trust development a few blocks north, it's a major change." Officials from BRAF, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the city-parish, LSU and the Water Institute of the Gulf joined Jindal in announcing the project. "It's another one of those monumental achievements that crystallizes all the work we've been doing over the past eight years," says CPEX President and CEO Elizabeth "Boo" Thomas. "To not only change the way Baton Rouge looks at water, but to change the way the world looks at water, is huge." View a gallery of renderings of The Water Campus. —Rachel Alexander
Capital Region home sales up 3.6% in November
Home sales in the eight-parish Capital Region were up 3.6% in November compared to the same month last year, according to the latest monthly sales report from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, released today. While the entire region tallied 20 more homes sold during November—for a total of 577—East Baton Rouge Parish recorded 52 fewer sales, or a decline of 15.2%. A total of 291 homes were sold in the parish last month. Livingston and Ascension parishes performed much better. The 119 sales recorded in Livingston represents a 38% increase over the 86 sold last November. In Ascension, sales in November totaled 108, a rise of 42% over the 76 sold during the month last year. Meanwhile, the average sales price in the Capital Region declined 3.7% in November to $197,848—down from $205,357 in November a year ago. The number of homes for sale in the eight-parish region dipped 5.2% on the month to 4,103; while pending sales rose 21% to 654. The months supply figure, or the number of months it would take to sell all of the homes for sale at the current sales pace, declined 15% to 5.7 months. Realtors generally view any reading under 6 months as reflective of a seller's market. Last November the months supply was 6.7. Access the complete report. —Staff report
Maginnis: Mitch Landrieu taking one election at a time
As Mitch Landrieu revs up his re-election campaign for mayor of New Orleans, columnist John Maginnis says the only real challenge facing him is keeping the focus on this race and not a future one, which caused him to say at an event, "I am not running for governor." "His ardent supporters, however, exchanged winks at the non-declaration, which they have heard a version of before, like for most of 2009, when then-Lt. Gov. Landrieu said he would not be a candidate for mayor, until one day he announced otherwise," Maginnis writes in his latest column. "Despite his disclaimer, across the state, the battered hearts of Democrats beat for Mitch to run for governor in 2015, perchance to win, and to spare them having eight years of Bobby Jindal followed by eight years of David Vitter." As the qualifying for the Feb. 1 primary opened last week, Maginnis says Landrieu's re-election campaign looked to be on cruise control, with no strong challenger in sight. "Besides rolling up his own big victory margin, he would be able to devote time and political capital to electing a solid council majority for his second term. Or at least until 2015," Maginnis writes. "The revelry was disturbed by a whistle sounding the start of an actual race, when Civil District Judge Michael Bagneris resigned the office, waited 24 hours, and became a candidate for mayor. Also running are NAACP local chapter leader Danatus King and, for comic relief, Manny 'Chevrolet' Bruno." While Maginnis says it is a race Landrieu is solidly favored to win, he notes "competitive campaigns always carry the risk of turning hot and bitter, with hard feelings spilling over to his second term, as well as to his sister Mary's U.S. Senate re-election bid next fall and, of course, that 2015 thing." Read the full column.(John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford publish
LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow them on Twitter, or on Facebook.)
CATS board to take up 2014 budget today
The CATS board this evening will consider adoption of a proposed 2014 budget
that includes an estimated $24 million in revenues and about the same amount of expenditures. Revenue from fares is expected to rise 26% next year to $2.1 million, while the 10.6-mill property tax levied on Baton Rouge and Baker homeowners that benefits CATS is expected to net slightly more than $14.8 million. CATS also expects to get $1.2 million from its cut of Baton Rouge's lodging tax, and federal operating funds are expected to increase 35% to roughly $4.8 million. On the spending side of the equation, operating expenses total slightly more than $22.1 million in the proposed budget, while CATS officials anticipate spending roughly $1.8 million in capital expenditures. The CATS board meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. in the BREC Administration Building, 6201 Florida Blvd. —Staff report
'Real Estate Weekly': New Brazilian concept restaurant slated for Mall of Louisiana
Tucanos Brazilian Grill, a Lakewood, Colo.-based restaurant with nine locations in the United States, will be making its Louisiana debut in Baton Rouge at the Mall of Louisiana. Real Estate Weekly
reports that an application recently filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works shows Tucanos plans to build a new 9,365-square-foot building on-site at the mall. The application also specifies the estimated cost of the project is $1.86 million. A Tucanos spokesperson confirmed the plans for a Baton Rouge restaurant but could provide no further details. The Brazilian concept restaurant features tableside service, focusing on freshly grilled meats and vegetables. It has locations in Albuquerque, N.M.; Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Newport News, Va.; Provo, Utah; Salt Lake City; Saint Charles, Mo.; and Sugar Land, Texas. —Rachel Alexander Read the new Real Estate Weekly e-newsletter.
La. has second highest home insurance rates in U.S.
Louisiana homeowners are paying the second highest insurance rates on average in the country, according to a report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which also says Florida has replaced Texas as the state with the highest rates. The average Louisiana homeowner pays $1,672 a year for insurance. That's about $260 less per year than the average Florida homeowner is paying, but it's nearly $700 more than the national average. According to the Dallas Morning News, Texans are now paying the third-highest average rate, at $1,578, followed by Mississippi, $1,409; Oklahoma, $1,386; and Alabama, $1,163. NAIC spokesman Mark Hanna says policies are being driven upward in coastal states by more expensive windstorm policies. Numbers in the study were based on premiums collected in 2011, the most recent year for which premium data is available for all states. The premiums are for so-called HO-3 policies, the most widely sold policy in many states and the nation. Across the country, four out of five policies sold are of the HO-3 variety.
News roundup: State sells $113 million in Unclaimed Property bonds to help finance I-49 … Pennsylvania expected to surpass Louisiana as nation's No. 2 natural gas producer … AP survey says U.S. income gap is holding economy back
Where the rubber meets the road:
The state today sold approximately $113 million in Unclaimed Property bonds to help fund portions of Interstate 49 North and South, according to a release from State Treasurer John Kennedy. The bonds were sold at interest rates ranging from 2% to 5%, says Kennedy, who called the rates "favorable." Approximately $92 million will be used to fund portions of I-49 North and $21 million to fund portions of I-49 South, Kennedy says in the release
, adding he expects an additional bond sale in the latter part of 2014 to help cover project costs for the I-49 South portion.Beyond the horizon:
A report released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration says Pennsylvania is expected to soon surpass Louisiana as the nation's No. 2 producer of natural gas—if it hasn't already. "From 2011 to 2012, Pennsylvania's marketed natural gas (which includes natural gas plant liquids) production grew by 72%, moving it from the seventh-largest to the third-largest marketed gas-producing state in the United States," reads the report.
"Preliminary data indicate that continued Marcellus [Shale] production may result in Pennsylvania's becoming the second-largest producer in 2013." Louisiana was the No. 2 natural gas producer in 2012, behind only Texas. Across the divide:
The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn't bad just for individuals. It's hurting the U.S. economy. So says a majority of more than three dozen economists surveyed last week by The Associated Press. Their concerns tap into a debate that's intensified as middle-class pay has stagnated while wealthier households have thrived. A key source of the economists' concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising. Read the full story.