A $26.4 million apartment, office and retail development at the 10-acre site of the former Prince Murat hotel at Nicholson Drive and Oklahoma Street could begin construction in the next few months.
River House developers Marc Blumberg and Emanuel Organek expect to have approval from the city-parish Department of Public Works and close on their loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development by April or May. Construction on the long-awaited project will take 12 to 14 months, Blumberg said Monday.
Blumberg said River House’s apartment component will be two four-story buildings, with 224 market-rate apartments: 112 one-bedroom units, 56 two-bedroom units and 56 studios.
A building at Nicholson and Oklahoma will have 15,000 square feet of retail. It might be anchored by a small grocery store, plus have some restaurants, a coffee shop and other community driven-retail, Blumberg said.
A three-story office building will have 34,000 square feet available for lease. Blumberg said he’s gotten interest over the years from potential users who like the proximity to downtown and LSU.
River House also will have a clubhouse and a courtyard and fountain, with the main entrance on Nicholson.
The apartments will sit at the back of the property, Blumberg said.
Blumberg said the project is being financed 75 percent through HUD, with the rest coming from private investors. He said it was initially going to be entirely financed through Wall Street, until the financial crisis and recession dried up credit. The HUD process, he said, had to run its course.
River House was last in the news when it was selected by the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority to receive an allocation of new markets tax credits. The credits went to another project because River House wasn’t advancing quickly enough.
Blumberg, who is based in Atlanta, and Organek, who is based in south Florida, bought the former Prince Murat, later a Ramada hotel, in the late 1980s and realized in the ensuing years that its time as a hotel was behind it.
In 2003, they announced plans to convert the hotel into condominiums that would be marketed to LSU students. But that project never took off.
The site was cleared in 2007 as they laid plans for the apartment complex, retail and office building development.
Downtown was transforming itself and LSU continued to grow, but, Blumberg said, two recessions and one major hurricane conspired to keep shovels out of the ground.
“It’s taken a lot longer than we’d hoped,” Blumberg said.
Still, Blumberg said he thinks the Nicholson corridor is primed for development.
“We think there will be a lot of others who choose to follow,” he said.
River House is Blumberg and Organek’s only Baton Rouge property, though the two men developed the 925 Common apartments in New Orleans.