Judge orders seizure of Nicholson Drive site of proposed River District mixed-use development _lowres


A federal bankruptcy judge has ordered the proposed River District mixed-use development along Nicholson Drive and land at the Port of Iberia be seized from Lafayette businessman Michel Moreno and sold at auction.

Judge Rebecca F. Doherty, of the Western District of Louisiana, issued the order last week after Goldman Sachs Bank USA requested foreclosure in July. The bank said Moreno owes $58.4 million in principal and accrued interest.

Moreno and several of his trusts and companies used the Baton Rouge and New Iberia properties as security for a loan of $52.4 million in October 2013, Goldman Sachs says in the suit.

According to the bank, Moreno and his entities defaulted on that debt.

Moreno had proposed the 34.8-acre River District development on Nicholson Drive between downtown Baton Rouge and LSU. Plans for the development included two hotels, 1,832 residential units ranging from apartments to townhomes, a possible neighborhood grocery store and 118,500 square feet of commercial space. He also owns 106.7 acres at the Port of Iberia.

Latter & Blum Property Management Inc. has been appointed as keeper of the properties. No date has been set yet for the auction.

Charlie Colvin, an agent/broker with Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, said the River District property would be appealing to local, state and regional developers.

“If you look at it long term, there’s a lot of upside,” Colvin said, noting the property’s proximity to the Water Campus, which will be a center for river, coastal and delta research. Construction is underway on the first $45 million phase of the development. The campus will eventually fill up a 33-acre site. Plans are in the works for a streetcar line along Nicholson that would connect LSU and downtown.

Because of the location between LSU and downtown, Colvin said, it makes sense to build a mixed-use development on the River District site, with housing, office and limited retail space. “Nicholson is a traditional thoroughfare,” he said.