Another delay in downtown complex
Organizers behind Erdace Apartments, the long-awaited downtown complex, won’t be breaking ground on the $43 million project this summer, as they once hoped.
Developer Roger Landry said construction was delayed after the project’s lender recently requested several minor changes, including bumping up the facility’s operational budget.
“It’s a cumbersome deal any time you change something,” Landry said.
The project, planned for the site of the old Sears building downtown, has already taken longer than developers originally hoped. Landry bought the 3.5-acre property over four years ago from the city, which now has the right to buy it back at the price of sale.
Landry said in March that he expected to reach financial close in June or July and start immediately afterward.
But he said residents won’t have to wait much longer. He said he expects to reach financial close on the loan in November or December and break ground immediately afterward.
The loan is from New York-based Greystone Bank and, at $35 million, makes up the bulk of the facility’s funding. Developers will put up the remaining $8 million themselves.
Apart from extending the wait, Landry said, the long review process has been a positive thing for the project.
“Everything is verified by a third party, which is good, because I don’t want the architect to do what I say. I want him to do it right,” he said.
Additionally, the company has been busy securing the required government permits for the facility.
The city and state fire marshals and the city permit office have issued their approvals, according to city records. Developers are waiting to pay the $70,000 building permit fee until they reach financial close.
Lori Marinovich, director of downtown development, said the city still has faith in the project and has decided not to exercise its buyback right for now. “It’s still going to be a great opportunity for downtown,” she said.
She said the increased number of residents in the area will enhance opportunities for local businesses. But she recognized that, as with any major project, the construction period would make commuting to the area difficult for a time.
“We’re going to have to be patient and understand that some things may be interrupted during the period of construction, but hopefully we’ll be able to manage that,” she said.
Landry, a Lake Charles native who now lives in Georgia, is one of five partners who make up BRaDD LLC, the company behind the project. He is known for developing Muller’s Lofts, which opened about 10 years ago.
He said Erdace Apartments should be ready for lease by March 2019.
Landry bought the 3.5-acre property formerly owned by Sears for just over $1 million in July 2013. He purchased it from the city, which took ownership of it after Sears left.
The project was originally planned as a $20 million, 170-unit apartment and retail space, but the planning phase took much longer as the project grew into a $43 million, 272-unit apartment complex.
In its act of sale, the city gave itself a six-month buyback option if, after 42 months, Landry couldn’t move forward with plans. That 42-month period ended in December and started the six-month window.
Striking a compromise, the City Council voted in February to extend its buyback option period through this December, protecting itself for another year while the developer had more time to make visible progress.
The head contractor, Unicorp Construction, met in March with local companies interested in getting jobs at the project. Landry said the company won’t finalize plans with subcontractors until 30 days before closing.
Landry said the city and residents will be glad they waited, especially when they see the designs architects have prepared.
The complex will contain 272 one- and two-bedroom units, each with its own balcony. He said the units are designed as small, urban-style flats not seen anywhere else in Lake Charles. The outside design mirrors different parts of the downtown area, he said, so the development will fit seamlessly with nearby buildings.
“We’re trying not to make them look like apartments,” Landry said.
The development will include a 380-space enclosed garage, a workout facility, bar/lounge area, small courtyard, and a large swimming pool and fountain area. Landry said he’s also filling the space with plants and flowers to avoid it looking like a “concrete institute.”
He said that planning out every square foot of the complex was an intensive, but enjoyable, process.
To see architectural blueprints and artist renderings, visit www.erdaceapartments.com.
Special to the American Press
Special to the American Press