staff photo

Advocate staff file photo.

LSU's Innovation Park on Friday won approval to strike a deal with a private development group that plans to build new office and manufacturing space at the business incubator. 

If the deal moves forward, Park Central Investments LLC, a group managed by local real estate broker Jak Kunstler, will build a 40,000-square-foot building for office and "light manufacturing" uses for several tenants.

The LSU Board of Supervisors approved the deal at its meeting Friday in Shreveport. 

While no leases have been signed yet, four tenants — three currently at LSU Innovation Park and another at the Louisiana Technology Park incubator on Florida Boulevard — have expressed interest. Aquaculture Systems International LLC, Carver Scientific Inc. and HIT Lights LLC are the three at Innovation Park. Bascom Hunter Technologies Inc. is the one at the Tech Park, which it joined in 2013. 

"They're all in these situations where their (research and development) phases are getting to the point where they need to step it up to the next phase of development, which is light-scale manufacturing," said Innovation Park Executive Director David Winwood. "This will give them the opportunity to do that." 

The developers approached LSU with the offer, and the park did not go through a competitive bid process because it is not required, according to the documents. LSU staff found the terms to be "generally consistent" with what would be expected from a bid process. 

Winwood, who took over as head of the incubator this year after Charlie D'Agostino's retirement, said the park decided to deal with a private developer because it is more economical and poses less risk to the school. 

The incubator also was approved Friday to move forward with a $1.8 million project to build a boulevard entry into the property from La. 30. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's MovEBR roads plan also will bring an extension of Staring Lane to Nicholson Drive, giving easier access to Innovation Park. 

Winwood said both those projects should set off more private development in the area as it becomes more accessible and attractive to more tenants. 

"We just have a big footprint in terms of land," he said. "It’s in a pretty prime location in terms of its access to LSU."

The development deal for the tenant building calls for a $3.8 million construction project to build the facility, which will be located adjacent to the incubator's current facilities. LSU will have control over which tenants will be allowed, mainly companies recruited by state or local economic development agencies or companies spun off from or licensing LSU technologies. The developer will be allowed to ink short-term leases with other companies that would not normally meet the park's criteria "if some portion of the building is vacant for a period of time," with approval from the LSU administration, according to documents. 

Kunstler said the deal made sense because the land is cheap and it was "apparent the need was there." Kunstler said he has development partners but declined to name them, and added he's been working on the deal for several years. 

Innovation Park, which launched in 1988 on a large plot of land south of campus acquired by Albemarle Corp., has graduated 174 tenants in a range of industries over the years, and is one of two major incubators in town, along with the Research Park Corp., which oversees the Louisiana Tech Park. 

Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.