Developer constructing River House apartment, retail, office project on Nicholson Drive, site of old Prince Murat _lowres

Rendering courtesy of RIVER HOUSE PARTNERS -- Ground has been broken on River House, a mixed-use development at 1480 Nicholson Drive. River House will have 224 luxury apartments spread over a pair of four-story buildings, a 34,000-square-foot, three-story office building, 15,000 square feet of retail and a 4,600-square-foot community clubhouse.

Work has started on a mixed-use development at 1480 Nicholson Drive at the site of the old Prince Murat Hotel, more than 12 years after plans were first announced for the project.

“It’s been a long process, but we never lost faith,” said Marc Blumberg, the Atlanta developer who is part of River House LLC. “And now we’ve started.”

River House will have 224 luxury apartments spread over a pair of four-story buildings, a 34,000-square-foot, three-story office building, 15,000 square feet of retail and a 4,600-square-foot community clubhouse.

The development, at the corner of Nicholson and Oklahoma Street, is financed by FNBC Bank of New Orleans and Continental Americas Regional Center of Boca Raton, Florida. All of the residential, office and retail space will be built at the same time and construction is expected to take 12 to 15 months, Blumberg said.

Blumberg and his partner, Manny Organek, of Boca Raton, bought the Prince Murat in the late 1980s. The two men have been involved in redeveloping 925 Common in downtown New Orleans, turning a historic office building into a luxury apartment building with retail space.

They first unveiled plans for a student condominium development on the 10-acre Prince Murat site in 2003. Plans changed and in 2007, Blumberg and Organek were seeking to have the property rezoned for a mix of apartments and commercial space. In 2013, the city-parish Planning Commission approved the current site plan for the development.

“The timing didn’t work out,” Blumberg said, citing the national recession and the resulting tightening of lending standards as obstacles for the River House development.

Meantime, real estate activity downtown and along the Nicholson Corridor picked up. Construction has started nearby on the Water Campus, which will be a center for river, coastal and delta research.

Blumberg said he’s hoping to attract tenants who work at the Water Campus, downtown or LSU. “We’re looking for 20-, 30-somethings and older who work in the infill area and don’t want to fight traffic,” he said.

The apartment units in River House will be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. Rents will average north of $1.50 per square foot, Blumberg said.

The rental rates for the retail and office space will be about $20 a square foot, which Blumberg said is comparable to other developments in the area.

Some financial services and franchise businesses have expressed interest in the retail space. A number of professional services firms have looked at the offices, including some that would take up all of the available space.

Now that construction has started on the River House, Blumberg said it’s time to get serious about firming up some of the leases. Ty Gose, of NAI/Latter & Blum in Baton Rouge, is handling leasing for the River House.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.