Redevelopment of downtown Onyx building set to begin

The Onyx building, at the corner of Third and Convention streets downtown Rouge, will be redeveloped into a mixed-use property, with a combination of apartments and commercial space.

Work could begin on the property as soon as next week, when workers start taking down the exterior marble panels, said Tina Rance, a spokeswoman for Commercial Properties Realty Trust, which is redeveloping the shuttered building and has a long-term lease on the state-owned property.

Commercial Properties will spend $6 million to redevelop the property, which has been renamed The Onyx Residences. Plans are to have 28 one- and two-bedroom apartments built above 5,600 square feet of commercial space. The property is set to open in fall 2014.

The apartments will range in size from 600 to 1,100 square feet. Each unit will have a balcony overlooking Third Street, Convention Street or the Shaw Center. Reserved parking also will be available in state parking garages at reduced rates.

Rents for The Onyx Residences have not been set.

This is the second major downtown project Commercial Properties has been involved with in recent months.

The group, a real estate investment trust that manages and develops property holdings of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, is developing the IBM Services Center: Baton Rouge office building and an adjoining residential tower that will contain 95 apartments and nine luxury town homes.

The IBM project is being built on Lafayette Street, between North and Main streets.

The office is set to open in mid-2015, while the residence will open in early 2016.

The time is right to build more residences downtown, said John Davies, president and CEO of BRAF.

“Downtown has more than a dozen new restaurants, more class-A office space, a new Town Square, the Shaw Center for the Arts and its Manship Theatre,” he said. “With this development, more people will be able to live downtown, which is vital to continuing the area’s transformation.”

The development of The Onyx Residences completes what was originally titled the “arts block,” said Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District.

The Onyx Residences will share a block with tenants such as the Shaw Center for the Arts, LSU Museum of Art, Stroubes Seafood and Steaks, tManship Theatre, OneEleven condominiums and the Roux House.

“This is quite a dynamic block,” Rhorer said. “We’re very excited that Commercial Properties is taking this on.”

Rhorer said there are almost 80 residences on Third Street, including OneEleven, Kress at Third and Main, the Fuqua Building and condominiums above Chenevert Architects and Boudreaux & Thibodaux’s.

Those residences are all occupied, he said.

The number of Third Street residences could be further increased by two redevelopment projects that are in the works: the Commerce Building and the Capital One building.

Interior demolition is set to start in about 45 days at the Commerce Building. New Orleans developer T.J. Iarocci plans to turn it into a mixed-use property with about 92 loft apartments, a private events deck and a rooftop restaurant.

The Capital One building was purchased this summer by David Weinstein and Dyke Nelson. Nelson said he is looking at a variety of options for the building, including apartments.

“There’s a real renaissance that’s transforming downtown Baton Rouge right before everyone’s eyes,” Rhorer said.

The Onyx Building was opened in the 1950s and was the home of Rider’s Jewelry until the late 1970s.

City Year occupied the building for several years, until it moved out in 2010.