Five groups have expressed interest in redeveloping the old federal courthouse in downtown Lafayette. The groups, responding to the Robideaux administration’s “request for qualifications,” include developers, architects and a community foundation, and their proposals vary in their levels of specificity.
The Lafayette city-parish government acquired the site — which includes a former cable access building and public library, in addition to the courthouse — in 2001, and it has sat vacant for about 15 years. Holding costs are as much as $40,000 every year.
Returning the 2-acre site to commerce is a top priority of Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, to the chagrin of judges and other elected officials working out of the nearby 15th Judicial District Courthouse. They say the current state courthouse is falling apart and unsafe, and have long eyed the old federal courthouse as an alternative.
Robideaux hasn’t publicly announced a competitive process for selecting a proposal to present to the City-Parish Council, other than to establish a timeline indicating a “shortlist of applicants” will be contacted by the end of the month. Interviews are to follow in early May, and the administration hopes to obtain the council’s approval for negotiations thereafter.
Whether the administration will apply a set of scoring criteria or other objective selection process is unclear.
One of the five respondents, the Community Foundation of Acadiana, appeared to propose it would conduct its own solicitation, acknowledging it lacks qualified staff to undertake the redevelopment. The foundation, while proposing it take ownership of the property, said it would serve as an “honest broker,” quickly assembling qualified developers, lawyers, financiers and others.
The foundation did not propose any particular use or financing matrix, referring to the site as “a blank canvas” and leaving the details to respondents in future solicitations.
Below are summaries of the other four development teams and their proposals:
Gist: Live theater space, culinary institute, 40 artists apartments, 8,600-square-foot office space.
Cost: not specified.
Financing: federal and state historic tax credits combining for 30 percent of needed capital, remaining to come from low-income housing tax credits, new market tax credits, construction and mortgage loans and possibly HUD grants.
Time frame: construction completed in September 2020.
Property disposition: suggesting long-term lease of land and improvements; open to various structures.
JCH Properties – KCT Real Estate Ventures
Gist: No specific use proposals, other than park and parking garage.
Financing: Create an economic development district with taxing authority and bonding capacity under state law.
Disposition: Transfer ownership to developers, while “incentivizing” the purchase price in order to “kick-start the feasibility” of the project.
Place de Lafayette – Weinstein Nelson Developers
Gist: Three buildings combining for 25,500 square feet and 68 new apartments.
Cost/Financing: “We assume a $15 million investment for the project including cash, tax credit equity and conventional bank debt.”
Property disposition: No preferred option, open to negotiation.
Wisznia Architecture and Development
Gist: 9,700-square-foot market for “upstart culinary artists”; 135 new residential units; 25,000 square feet of unspecified retail; 4,500-square-foot restaurant; 8,000-square-foot office.
Cost: $25.6 million.
Financing: low-income housing tax credits ($10 million); historic tax credits ($6.5 million); bank loan ($4.8 million); investor equity ($2.6 million); infrastructure grant ($1.7 million).
Property disposition: Developer purchase agreement including city-owned parcels across Jefferson Street, with a portion of the purchase proceeds going to infrastructure and street improvements.