Research Park sells its stake in Bon Carré

Advocate staff file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Stixis Technologies will be located in the Louisiana Technology Park at the Bon Carre Business Center on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge.
Advocate staff file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Stixis Technologies will be located in the Louisiana Technology Park at the Bon Carre Business Center on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge.

Deal set to close Dec. 2

The Research Park Corp. board of directors voted Thursday to sell its 25 percent stake in the Bon Carré Business Center on Florida Boulevard for $5.4 million.

Under the agreement, the Research Park Corp., doing business as Bon Carré Development Center, will sell its share to BCBC Land. BCBC Land is made up of owners of Bon Carré: the Wilbur Marvin Foundation, a nonprofit that holds most of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s real estate assets; John Noland, a former owner of the All Star Automotive Group who serves as chairman of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority; Real E Tech Investments, a company led by Terrell Brown, the chairman of the tech park’s board of directors; and Gulf Coast BIDCO, a business and industrial development corporation that provides working capital for young technology firms.

Three members of the RPC board recused themselves from voting on the sale: Brown because of his investment in the park; Walter Monsour because he serves as CEO and president of the RDA, which is chaired by Noland; and Edmund Giering, who serves as general counsel of the Wilbur Marvin Foundation.

The RPC will get a $750,000 cash payment once the deal is signed and a $4.65 million promissory note. BCBC Land will make monthly payments of just less than $30,000 a month on the note for the next 20 years. The sale is set to close Dec. 2.

The deal guarantees that the RPC will get an immediate cash payment and a steady funding source for the next 20 years to fund its technology mission.

Owners will see their interest in Bon Carré increase proportionally, based on their existing shares. Wilbur Marvin owns 51 percent of the business center, and officials with BRAF have said once the deal closes its stake will be boosted to 63 percent. Noland owns just less than 12 percent of the park, while Gulf Coast BIDCO owns nearly 9 percent and Real E Tech had just less than a 3 percent share.

The RPC paid $5.1 million for its stake in Bon Carré, so the organization will see a small return, said Eddie Ashworth, a board member and former CEO of the Louisiana Technology Park in Bon Carré.

“This has been a long complex negotiation,” Ashworth said. “The first meeting we had on this was back in 2011.”

Ashworth said the RPC was approached by the other owners of the Bon Carré Business Center about selling its stake in the property. According to documents given to The Advocate as a result of a public records request, it was Commercial Properties Realty Trust, BRAF’s real estate manager that made the first move.

“Owning and developing commercial real estate is not a mission of the Research Park Corp.,” Ashworth said. “We got into as buyers of last resort.”

Research Park Corp. acquired the financially ailing former mall development in 2003 — selling a $6 million stake in the property to six local investors, while holding onto a $2 million interest in Bon Carré.

Bon Carré Business Center’s 850,000 square feet is 90 percent occupied, according to Commercial Properties Realty Trust, which manages the property. About 4,000 people work in the center for tenants such as Cox Communications, data center operator Venyu, URS, an engineering and construction firm, and GMFS, a mortgage company headed by Brown.

“Our goals have been accomplished,” Ashworth said. “This whole area has been brought back into commerce as a result that Bon Carré has been a successful real estate development.”

The Tech Park will remain as a tenant in Bon Carré. The organization’s initial 10-year lease is set to expire in Dec. 31, 2014, but there are three five-year renewal options.

The specifics of what the RPC will do with the proceeds from the sale have yet to be determined, Brown said.

But Ashworth noted some areas that could benefit from the additional money. Over the next three years, the RPC has committed to paying for Step One Ventures, a new fund aimed at helping fledgling Baton Rouge companies. According to the RPC’s 2014 budget, which was approved Thursday, Step One is set to receive $482,088 in the upcoming year.

Additional capital investment for the Tech Park’s video game incubator has been approved and money may be set aside for companies that work on radio frequency applications.