Vista Louisiana has been chosen to be the new master developer for all but the military portion of Federal City, the 146-acre redevelopment project at the former U.S. Navy base in Algiers.
Vista Louisiana, which is led by Vista Trust, a privately held real estate firm based in North Carolina, will replace HRI/EEC, which agreed to step aside as master developer in Februaryafter a protracted legal dispute with the entities that own and manage the property.
The selection of a new master planner was hailed as a new start for Federal City, which stalled following some initial development after it was created in 2008.
“It’s a new day now,” said Kathy Lynn Honaker, executive director of the Algiers Development District, which owns Federal City. “It’s a new start and very, very exciting.”
Michigan developer Tom Miller, who assembled the development team, said Vista Louisiana could pump more than $200 million into Federal City in the next five to seven years, and that its partners have relationships with retailers eager to locate on the West Bank.
“This development is really going to bring some new faces to that retail market that otherwise doesn’t exist,” he said.
Vista Louisiana, which was selected over Federal Development Partners, will spend about a month negotiating its contract and then will update the existing master plan.
When it’s done, the team could begin announcing new tenants in just months, Honaker said.
“They want to get moving right away. They don’t want any delays,” she said.
Honaker said Vista Louisiana was chosen because of its team members’ strong finances, the satisfaction of previous clients and their willingness to invest in the project.
Vista Louisiana consists of Vista Trust, New Orleans-based MCC Development & Real Estate, New Orleans-based Manning Architects and DeVere Construction of Charleston, N.C.
Vista Trust, led by North Carolina developer Lawrence Starkman, is the financial arm of the team and has a real estate portfolio of more than 100 properties. DeVere developed the $25 million Meadow Homes development in Lake Charles, the $15 million Anson Apartments in Zionsville, Indiana, and the $25 Millennium One student housing development in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Manning firm helped design New Orleans East Hospital, L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge and the Iberville housing complex redevelopment in New Orleans.
Honaker said Vista has working relationships with retailers, entertainment venues, commercial office users and residential contractors that will help fully realize the 118 acres it will have to build out.
She said a grocery store, small retail and entertainment options will be a key focus, in addition to seeding Federal City with residents and office workers.
“It will be a true mixed-use development the community can enjoy,” she said.
The Algiers Development District also will be accepting proposals for a master planner for the 28-acre military portion of Federal City that is anchored by the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters. That portion has an unoccupied hospital building and other available space, but security clearance requirements call for a more specialized team to do the master planning there.
The Algiers Development District’s approval of Vista Louisiana followed a recommendation from the Joint Development Committee.
That committee consists of appointees from ADD, the New Orleans Federal Alliance, Greater New Orleans Inc. and Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Federal City is envisioned to ultimately comprise more than 100,000 square feet of office space, 375,000 square feet of retail, 350,000 square feet of civic and educational buildings, 150 hotel rooms and 1,400 residential units.
It was seeded with $150 million from the state, and work began in 2008 on the Marine Force Reserves Headquarters, followed by a 400-seat auditorium, a YMCA fitness center, a child development center, the New Orleans Police Department’s Fourth District headquarters and a 128-room hotel, among other projects.
It also includes the New Orleans Military & Maritime Academy charter school, and the former Naval Support Facility’s chapel is scheduled to become the student life center for Delgado Community College’s West Bank campus.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.