Huntington Ingalls, Kinder Morgan decide against Avondale joint venture; now what for the shipyard? _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Avondale shipyards, once a bustling place, is now largely a ghost town oveseen by a maintenance crew..

Avondale Shipyard, once Louisiana’s largest private employer, is up for sale.

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ facility along the West Bank of the Mississippi River is being marketed by Colliers International Group Inc, a commercial real estate services firm.

Until this year, Huntington Ingalls was working with Kinder Morgan, one of the country’s largest pipeline and terminal operators, to transition the aging facility into a commercial manufacturer for the once-booming oil and gas industry.

The shipyard is designed for light and heavy manufacturing. Avondale workers finished building the yard’s last scheduled components for a U.S. Navy warship in late 2014, and a small crew has remained on-site to maintain the facility and its assets.

Colliers’ brokerage team will partner with local broker Gerard Henry, of Max Derbes Inc., in the effort to sell the property.

The Avondale facility consists of 206 acres that include more than 7,900 feet of riverfront access. It also provides users deepwater access. The facility has been developed incrementally since 1938.

Colliers said its goal is to attract a buyer capable of rebuilding an employment base at the facility.

“We are aware of its significance to both the local and state economies and we look forward to achieving a positive outcome for our client, the future owner and the citizens of Jefferson Parish,” Colliers Regional Managing Director David Pinsel said.

Colliers International Group is a publicly traded company specializing in global commercial real estate services with more than 16,300 professionals operating from 502 offices in 67 countries.

News that Colliers is marketing the facility renewed optimism among some local officials.

Jefferson Parish President John Young said Tuesday that having the facility up for sale is “a positive step in the right direction.”

“I think all options are on the table,” he said.

Likewise, Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., said it’s a sign that Huntington Ingalls is serious about finding a taker.

“It signals a real activity to go and find a single master tenant or other productive uses of the site,” he said. “With development on the river at record levels, I have no doubt that there will be significant interest in a site with the attributes of Avondale.”

In late 2011, defense giant Northrop Grumman Corp. shocked the region by announcing plans to close Avondale and consolidate its shipbuilding operations in Mississippi. It later spun off its shipbuilding division into Huntington Ingalls.

The number of workers at the Avondale site began sliding sharply in 2013 after work wrapped up on the last Navy warship built from the keel up.

After years of uncertainty over its fate and any potential of stemming large job losses, local and state officials last year expressed frustration over the company’s mixed approach, publicly stating it would likely close the facility even as it looked for a manufacturing partner.

A handful of ideas have been floated in recent years for the shipyard’s potential second act, including converting it into a general-purpose industrial park like what happened in Philadelphia in the mid-1990s after the country’s oldest naval shipyard closed. But that idea and others went nowhere, stymied in part, officials said, by Huntington Ingalls’ previous unwillingness to part with the site.