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Extension OK’d on Sears property buy

Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:26 AM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

A developer who plans to buy the former Sears property has been granted an additional 30 days to await U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development acceptance of environmental papers that say the land is clean.

The City Council voted 7-0 Wednesday in favor of an ordinance allowing Roger Landry the extra time.

In November, City Hall and Landry entered into a purchase agreement that gave him 60 days to conduct an environmental assessment of the 3.5 acres of land — located at the corner of Ryan and Mill streets — before he paid $1.06 million to close the deal.

The time period started on Nov. 24 and is supposed to end Jan. 25. Landry’s extension lasts until Feb. 25.

“Mr. Landry immediately got on phase one of the deal, which was the environmental due diligence period. He got a report from a consultant that said the land had no environmental issues. Mr. Landry’s banker accepted that, but because of language related to remediation and hazardous waste that was removed, HUD will be a little slower,” City Attorney Billy Loftin said. “Landry anticipates that it will take HUD a little while longer to approve the report they’ve been given.”

City Councilwoman Luvertha August voted for the extension, but cautioned the administration not to allow future delays on closing the deal.

“We’ve been there before, and I feel burned,” August said, referring to the failed Cypress Development project that Landry was a spokesman for.

That project was granted extensions and failed after the development group was unable to obtain financing for the multimillion-dollar project, which was going to be built on the grounds of the Civic Center.

“If he does not get it done in the next 30 days, I would not recommend another extension,” Loftin told the City Council. “But it would not be good business right now if we did not grant an extension.”

Landry intends to build a residential/business facility on the land. He proposes to construct 170-plus residential units and provide 22,000 square feet of business space. The project will cost about $20 million.

If the purchase is not completed, City Hall already has an ordinance in place that would allow officials to negotiate the land’s sale to Baton Rouge developer Donnie Jarreau, who has offered $825,000 for the parcel.

In other business, the City Council approved the sale of the abandoned parking garage along the lakefront. City officials intend to sell the structure to Mardi Gras Boardwalk, which would have to renovate it.

An appraisal of the garage is pending, but the development company has offered $165,000 to buy it.

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