Former Advocate site sold for IBM offices

The sale of the former downtown location of The Advocate was finalized Tuesday, two days before a ceremonial groundbreaking will be held to mark IBM’s decision to establish a service center on the property.

Reiger Investments LLC, a company controlled by the Manship family, the former owners of The Advocate, sold the Lafayette Street property for nearly $4.1 million, according to documents filed late Tuesday afternoon with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court’s Office.

The buyer was Lafayette Street Holdings, a company controlled by the Wilbur Marvin Foundation, a nonprofit that holds most of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s real estate assets.

The former Advocate property takes up a city block bordered by Lafayette, North and Main streets and River Road.

When IBM announced in March it was opening a software development center in Baton Rouge, the Manships said a purchase agreement for the downtown property had been reached.

At the time, Richard Manship, then president and CEO of Capital City Press, said his family was selling the land at “a 20 percent discount.”

The property has been vacant since September 2005, when the newspaper left its downtown office and moved to an office building on Bluebonnet Boulevard. The 72,000-square-foot property had been listed for sale with an asking price of $6.5 million.

“We knew the value of the property was such that it would take a big project to sell it to someone,” Manship said Tuesday. “We were not in a hurry to sell. We wanted the right offer to come around.”

Manship said his family was delighted to be able to sell the land for something that will enrich Baton Rouge.

“Getting IBM is so huge,” he said. “We’re glad that we could be a part of that process.”

The Wilbur Marvin Foundation will own the IBM complex.

The project will include a $30 million office building and a $25 million residential tower.

About 800 people are expected to work in the eight-story IBM building. The residential tower will contain 95 apartments and nine luxury town homes. A 24,000-square-foot terrace will connect the buildings.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the IBM complex will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center on Lafayette Street.

The event was moved to a site a few blocks away to accommodate the expected turnout.

The Lemoine Co. will serve as contractor for the project. The IBM offices are set to open in spring 2015, while the residential tower will open in the summer or fall.