David Ducote got up at 6:30 a.m. Friday to sneak a $20 bill under the pillow of his daughter, who had lost her lucky tooth the night before.
While he was up, he scanned the headlines and noticed that 31 bundles of properties near Louis Armstrong International Airport were going up for auction later that morning, so he headed to City Hall, hoping some of that luck might rub off on him.
One hour and $28,000 later, Ducote was the successful bidder on Bundle 28, a parcel of two lots on Duncan Street between Fourth and Maria streets. He scooped it up in hopes that talk of an industrial park on nearby Hollandey Street will one day make Bundle 28 ripe for commercial development.
“I have a feeling that this (area) is going to be phenomenal,” he said. “Don’t ask me why. It’s just a feeling.”
Ducote, a local business owner and developer, was one of a few dozen people who turned out for the city’s auction of federally owned property, most of it to the south and east of the airport in Kenner.
When the dust settled, 20 of the 31 properties had attracted successful bidders, who then rushed to nearby banks to come up with the required 10 percent deposit within an hour.
Luis Sotomayor, a real estate investor, successfully bid $145,000 on Bundle 5, which makes up the lion’s share of a block where he already owns a lot. He said he’s considering fencing it in and using it for commercial storage, offering people a place to store their boats, for example.
“Of course, right now, that’s up in the air, so that’s kind of scary,” he said, acknowledging that all commercial developments will need the approval of Kenner’s Planning Commission and City Council.
Still, Sotomayor said, he’s hopeful his investment soon will pay off.
Anthony Sequeira, of Harahan, bid successfully on Bundles 12 and 19, located near Williams Boulevard and River Road.
He said he’d like to subdivide them and sell them for use as storage for small businesses, like electricians and plumbers.
“We’re just trying to give everyone a chance to own their own property,” he said. “It’s the American dream.”
The final figures won’t be officially released until next week, but according to information compiled by the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, there were 12 successful bidders for the 20 properties sold. Those properties fetched bids totaling just under $2 million, $216,000 above the minimum acceptable bids set by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The remaining 11 properties will be offered again at a later auction.
The 31 bundles, comprising roughly 400 individual lots scattered throughout portions of 23 city blocks in Kenner, became the property of the federal government in the late 1980s, when it bought out local homeowners to settle a lawsuit over excessive noise from planes overhead.
Although still zoned residential, the properties must be used for commercial or possibly light industrial purposes.
The 31 bundles, which ranged from a single lot to roughly 40 lots, were assembled by the University of New Orleans, which was hired by Kenner to help figure out how to put the land back into commerce.
Had all the parcels sold for the minimum bid, the federal government would have netted about $3.2 million from the auction.
Acting Kenner Mayor Michael Sigur said developers will have to go before Kenner’s Planning Commission and City Council with their projects proposed as “planned unit developments” and seek approval on a case-by-case basis.
Sigur said that while the city’s expectation is that the properties will be developed for commercial use, some light industrial uses might be considered, though he said input from citizens will play a part in any decision.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.