After nearly five years on the market, the 2.9-acre tract of vacant land at the intersection of Kenilworth Parkway and Perkins Road was set to change hands this month, and realtor Ty Gose thought he had a good deal in the works. A group of buyers had signed a purchase agreement for the parcel and had hopes of developing an office park there. Two weeks before closing, however, Gose got word from the Department of Public Works that it wouldn't issue permits to build on the property because the land is identified as the site of a future cut-through street that would provide access directly from Perkins to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The city's new land-use plan, FuturEBR, also identifies the site as a potential "connecting corridor," and goes so far as to suggest it could eventually link Kenilworth all the way to Corporate Boulevard. Gose is hoping to change the minds of city-parish leaders and prevent them from effectively killing his deal. After all, he says, whatever the city's land-use plans call for on paper, to suggest Kenilworth should be extended straight through some of the mansions on Moss Side Lane is a little incredible. "I'm just trying to get in front of decision makers and get them to take a level-headed view of this right of way," he says. Read the full story in the current issue of Business Report by Editor Stephanie Riegel here.
Downtown library moves forward a step
With the Metro Council having approved a $1.5 million design contract for a new downtown library by a 7-4 vote last week, a joint venture by Baton Rouge-based WHLC Architecture and Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston can finally begin the process of taking the long-stalled project from vision to fruition. Though it's not clear exactly how long the design process will take, Library Board of Control Co-director Mary Stein says the Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard—currently under construction with a budget of $44 million—took a year to design. Unlike the Main Library, the downtown facility is expected to shut down during construction, according to Jim Frey, an architect with East Baton Rouge Department of Public Works. The Metro Council previously allocated $19 million for the new downtown library at the Baton Rouge River Center. How that $19 million will be spent on the project—which has been hotly debated by the council and community at large for years now—is expected to elicit continued debate as the design process gets under way. Read the full story from Daily Report here.
National real estate reports not exactly on par, broker says
A few months ago, the National Association of Realtors quietly announced it was revising past NAR real estate reports because of incorrect methodologies used to estimate how many homes were actually selling across the country. In a guest column featured in the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida real estate broker and blogger Joe Manausa says, in golf terms, NAR is simply "sandbagging." "Sandbaggers in golf are the most vile of creatures, artificially inflating their handicap in order to hustle the competition, usually with the intent of winning a bet," he says. "In order to allow golfers of differing capabilities to compete with each other, a handicap system was established which relies on each golfer's recent scores to determine an index that, for the most part, is very effective at leveling the playing field for all parties. Until somebody cheats. A golf sandbagger will change past scores to reflect poorer play, so that current competitions allow for a higher index and thus a better chance at winning bets." As for NAR's move to revisit and revise past reports, Manausa says, "This sandbagging method has allowed current NAR real estate reports to appear better than previous years, and I suspect they will be revised again later so that next year's reports show continued signs of improvement." Manausa says the NAR reports still have value, and he explains how to mine them for measurable data in the full column here.
This week's poll question: Do you think national real estate reports accurately reflect the state of the housing market?
Cook: After years on the market, Toulon townhouses sell
Zeke Dunaway with Dunaway Realty Company had 11 townhouses listed at 2737 Toulon Dr. for $995,000. Though they were built to be sold as separate units, the properties—owned by RBH Investments LLC—have been functioning as an 11-unit apartment complex for the past few years. Last week, they were sold for $775,000, or about $70,546 per townhouse. The purchaser was Toulon Townhomes LLC, represented by Shannon Alexander at Keller Williams Realty. According to MLS data, the property had been on the market for 992 days, or a little over 2.5 years, when it sold at less than 80% of its list price. Each two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse is about 1,200 square feet. "They were pretty good units and had been well maintained. They should make a good investment for the owner," says Dunaway.
(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore & Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or TCook@cookmoore.com.)
Andrews: Pigs and grease?
Maybe I was confused at first about the questions raised during a weekend conversation about how we in south Louisiana will be impacted by recent goings on with pigs and grease. I mean, who among us is not up for an impromptu cochon de lait? But then it was made clear that we were talking about PIIGS, a group of eurozone nations that received financial support during the financial crisis, including Greece. Not so much fun now, but a timely conversation nonetheless.
There has been a good bit of turmoil in Europe over the past few years, with a lot of bad news recently from Greece (the "G" in PIIGS) and Spain (the "S"), as Greece's economy cannot support its debt load and Spain's banks need support to continue operations. This turmoil is causing the European and U.S. stock markets to fluctuate, driving investors to seek the safety of U.S. Government bonds and forcing interest rates down. At a minimum, it is causing rates to remain at historically low levels and yield tremendous deals for investors. (I closed a $14.5 million apartment loan last week fixed for 42-years at 3.80%.) Residential mortgage rates also remain at historically low rates, making home ownership incredibly affordable for those who have a downpayment and can qualify.
So while the PIIGS are having their problems, we in south Louisiana are benefiting through low rates. The catch is that these problems will get fixed in due time and the pressures keeping rates low will be released, causing rates to jump in short order. If you have the opportunity to lock in low rates on a new purchase or a refinance, I would imagine that time is short to make it happen.
(Brian Andrews is a certified mortgage banker specializing in the financing of commercial real estate. His business is Andrews Commercial Real Estate Services, and he can be reached at email@example.com.)
Real estate recap: New B.R. Galatoire's groundbreaking Wednesday … Uncle O's moving into former Brewbacher's on Sherwood … EBR flood maps go into effect June 19
Fire it up: A groundbreaking celebration for the new Galatoire's Bistro location, at the corner of Perkins Road and Acadian Thruway, will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Guests will get a sneak peek of the new restaurant, enjoy samples of Galatoire's signature cuisine and hear from speakers including Galatoire's lead investor John Georges, Commercial Properties Realty Trust executives and Mayor Kip Holden. The restaurant, scheduled to open in December, will include a bar, private dining space and an outdoor dining area.
Down the road: Local lunch spot Uncle O's Café Gumbo and Seafood is set to move from its familiar location near the corner of South Harrell's Ferry and Millerville roads and into a space at 3410 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., formerly home to Brewbacher's Grill, owner Ouncy Borne says. With hopes of having the new location open by July, Borne says he decided to relocate to avoid traffic congestion and construction in the area, which he says was affecting sales. "Eventually I just got fed up and decided it was time to go," he says. Borne intends to serve alcohol in addition to his usual south Louisiana fare at the new location, but does not expect to extend operations past "regular restaurant hours." Before closing in November 2010, Brewbacher's had operated at the South Sherwood site for 18 years.
Are you ready? East Baton Rouge Parish homeowners, business owners and renters who do not have flood insurance are being encouraged to buy coverage before new flood insurance rate maps go into effect June 19, in order to get the best possible premiums. You can see the new flood map here. Kyle Jones, chief of staff for the Mayor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says flooding can sometimes occur outside the mapped floodplain. So, while many residents are required by mortgage and lending companies to carry flood insurance, Jones encourages all residents to purchase flood insurance, as the floodplain is ever changing. Learn more at the city-parish's Red Stick Ready website here.