Editor’s note: This is the first story in a three-part series examining development proposals for the former Sears property in downtown Lake Charles.
Ryan Street Lofts is the proposed name for an estimated $20 million development that Baton Rouge businessman Donnie Jarreau wants to build in the 600 block of Ryan Street.
Jarreau is one of three developers who bid on the 3.7-acre tract of city-owned land in downtown Lake Charles.
He said preliminary market research led him to believe that additional housing is needed in the city.
“I do a lot of multifamily developments. I’m in the process of building a development in downtown Baton Rouge,” he said. “We inspected the downtown Lake Charles site and believe it is great. We also believe Lake Charles can become the next great city in Louisiana.”
Since Lake Charles is considered a growing economic engine in the region, Jarreau said, it makes since to invest here. He has already bought 60 acres of land near Big Lake and Tank Farm Roads in anticipation of industrial growth along the Calcasieu River corridor.
“I’m investing in Lake Charles. I am here. We want to be a good community leader. I think we can bring ideas from a large city and be progressive with our designs,” he said.
Other interested developers are Erdace Apartments, headed by Roger Landry, and Geddings Development Corp., led by Gray Stream.
Jarreau has offered $957,500 to buy the land and proposes building a three-story, 188-multifamily-unit facility that would have retail space and on-site parking. He is comfortable with City Hall’s bidding process.
“It is fair. A developer has to bring their best offer and let the city see what the plan is. It is not always about the highest price. The other developers are very respected and good. All three of us are qualified to do the project,” he said.
Jarreau’s designs were drawn by the Loony Ricks Kiss architecture firm. The company — with offices in Baton Rouge, Celebration, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and Princeton, N.J. — also drew plans for Cypress Realty’s failed Lakeside development, which was supposed to be built on the Civic Center grounds.
In a memo to his Lake Charles real estate broker, Chris Khoury, Jarreau said that “the project would require Federal Housing Administration financing.”
If his bid is approved, Jarreau estimates the land could be bought within 30-60 days, followed by a 180-day period to get FHA financing approval.
“Closing on property 270 days from execution of purchase agreement. Construction time...12-13 months,” he wrote to Khoury.
Jarreau would work with HFC Funding Corp. of Jackson, Miss., to manage the financing process.
“Les Hardin is currently on several HUD boards and is very experienced with these type of multifamily developments,” Jarreau wrote to Khoury. “I have currently developed over 700 units in Louisiana and continue to expand in this sector of real estate.”
Khoury wants the City Council to consider the economic impact of the work that developers competing for the property have done.
According to Jarreau’s website, his “career began in 1984 when he opened and managed Wallbanger Fitness Center. Jarreau leveraged the impressive Wallbanger momentum and at 31, founded Spectrum Fitness Clubs. Today, Spectrum is the largest fitness chain in Baton Rouge.”
Jarreau owns real estate, property management, construction and development companies.
His portfolio includes building housing units in Denham Spring, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Natchitoches, Monroe and Brusly; multitenant projects; acquisition and rehabilitation projects; and “built to suit projects” for CC’s Coffee House, Dollar Tree, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Family Dollar and Goodwill.
“I hope the City Council stresses the ability of the developers in their consideration,” Khoury told the American Press. “Jarreau is the right group of people to do this project in Lake Charles.”
In November, the City Council will decide which developer to negotiate a buy-sell agreement with.