A peek at some of the hottest new developments in the parish
Jerry Bologna is bullish on Jefferson Parish. One would expect no less of the president and CEO of Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO). But commercial development is happening across the east and west banks of the Mississippi River that is driving the reimagining of some of the area’s long-established neighborhoods, multi-million-dollar construction projects, and the creation of high-paying, permanent jobs. Biz New Orleans profiles some of the exciting new projects — from a local family’s business to two-person partnerships to corporations with multistate presence — moving Jefferson forward.
“The projects that we have on the drawing board all serve to diversify our economy, and that’s what’s important,” Bologna said. “We have industrial projects, retail projects, commercial projects all over the parish, and the more we can diversify our economy, the more resilient our economy becomes.”
“Most of these projects entail a good deal of construction. So you’re not only creating construction-related jobs, but there’s a long-term employment impact with newly created, high-paying jobs. The economic impact for those projects is innumerable right now.”
Now that pandemic precautions are being relaxed, Bologna expects commerce to ramp up quickly.
“It’s a good time here in Jefferson. We’ve spent the year of COVID-19 really investing in infrastructure and getting ready to emerge. And now that we’re emerging, I think we see a lot of momentum on a number of different fronts.”
Clearview City Center
Clearview Mall has dominated the intersection of South Clearview Parkway and Veterans Boulevard since 1969, but a $100 million redevelopment of the 35-acre location will turn it into a more than 1-million-square-foot mixed-use property including heath care, residential, office, retail, grocery, hotel, and entertainment areas.
“Our vision is to turn this space into the type of dynamic, one-of-a-kind destination that doesn’t exist anywhere else in our region,” said Clearview City Center Managing Partner Thomas Richards. “This development will redefine the mixed-use concept for our area while becoming a live-work-play destination for the next generation.”
The plans call for an almost complete transformation of the site. Clearview City Center will retain its current tenants, including Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and AMC Theaters, and add 100,000 square feet of commercial office space, open-air restaurants and nightlife with rooftop access, upscale apartments, additional retail tenants, a hotel, and 14,000 square feet of green space for outdoor events and concerts.
“That’s such an ideal piece of real estate. Clearview has had some ambitious plans to redevelop their property for a number of years, and now you’re seeing it come to fruition,” Bologna said. “You’re going to see a resurgence in that geographic area. It’s an ideal piece of real estate because of ingress and egress to the interstate and access to the major retail corridor that is Veterans.”
Regions Bank has already added a state-of-the-art, 3,500-square-foot facility where the Sears auto center once stood, with further modernizations on the way, including a 270-unit, $55 million luxury apartment community.
Ochsner Health is developing a super clinic of comprehensive healthcare services in the 185,000-square-foot former Sears anchor location. The site will offer a 10-bed micro-hospital to accommodate overnight stays, as well as same-day surgery, women’s and men’s health, and some specialty services.
“This new facility will have over 70 multispecialty physicians and offer comprehensive services including operating rooms, endoscopy suites, cardiac catheterization labs, pain management procedures, imaging services, physical therapy, a medi-spa and a drive-through pharmacy,” said Rob Wolterman, CEO, Ochsner Health — South Shore Region. “So much of health care is moving away from the hospital and into ambulatory and outpatient settings where services are more convenient for patients, so we’ve designed this new facility 100% with our patients in mind, and it aligns perfectly with the future of health care.”
“These new tenants are combining with current ones to reinforce our vision for this project and also build momentum that is very much a catalyst in driving additional interest and development throughout the site,” Richards said.
Greater New Orleans, Inc., the regional economic development nonprofit organization serving the 10-parish region of Southeast Louisiana, said related construction will create up to 1,608 jobs and $123 million in economic impact. Once the phased redevelopment is complete, it will provide as many as 420 jobs and deliver a $26 million annual economic impact. The clinic alone is expected to create 200 jobs, with an average annual salary of $70,000.
“There is always a risk when you introduce a new concept and big vision that’s different from what people are used to seeing, but this has been one that so many in our area have already bought into,” Richards said. “This is an exciting project for our region, but it’s also a personal one for my family, which has owned and operated Clearview for more than 50 years. There is nothing that gives us more satisfaction than knowing what this investment will do for this area and beyond — enhancing quality of life, creating jobs, bringing in new residents, providing quality entertainment and amenities, and elevating the footprint of the entire region in the process.”
JEDCO Wins Brownfield Assessment Grant
Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) has won a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess brownfields, properties taken out of commerce due to the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant, and help municipalities attract prospective businesses and developers to vacant industrial and commercial properties in underserved communities in Avondale, Bridge City, Westwego and parts of Marrero.
Remediation is often expensive, but the federal grant will help to offset some of those costs.
“We’re really proud of the fact that we won this grant. It’s extremely rare to win one,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “In many cases, those properties have been out of commerce for decades, if not generations. They’re ideal properties. This grant will help us start to repurpose some of that land, remediate the environmental issues, and get them back into commerce. That would be a real boon for the West Bank.”
Copeland Tower Living
Originally built as a hotel in 1973, Metairie’s Copeland Tower is in the process of being converted into an active adult living community with hotel-like services and amenities. Copeland Tower Living will offer 95 one-bedroom, 750-square-foot apartment suites.
“Our family has been in the hospitality business for a very long time,” said Al Copeland, Jr., CEO and chairman of the board at Al Copeland Investments, which owns the property. “We’ve owned hotels, and, then of course the restaurant business [has] been in our family. So, this just fit right in. It’s just an evolution of our hospitality business.”
Copeland Investments conducted a $16.4 million renovation in 2015, which converted the building’s nearly 200 hotel rooms into 95 two-room suites marketed to business travelers. The current remodeling is converting the suites to apartments by installing gas, electricity, and water utilities and appliances, including a television with cable and high-speed internet, washer/dryer, dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, and microwave oven. The upgrade will also convert the building’s nine meeting spaces into common areas, including a Copeland’s restaurant-inspired dining room and cocktail lounge in the lobby, and a full-service salon, state-of-the-art wellness center, yoga studio, and spa on the facility’s 16th floor. Residents will also enjoy housekeeping and maintenance-free living. Copeland Investments’ offices will remain on the 17th floor.
Copeland Tower Living is targeting demographics that every municipality wants — well-heeled, active local retirees, and snowbirds looking for a second home to escape northern winters. Rents will start at about $3,400 per month on a year-long lease.
“When you’re talking about amenities, location is the key amenity here,” Copeland said. “So many senior living centers are in areas where land is inexpensive, and only one or two levels, maybe three. So having the views this property has, on top of being centrally located with area restaurants, the mall, and entertainment, really is just super fitting to this.”
“That’s an ideal repurposing of that facility,” Bologna said. “Every community wants to not only attract young people, but also hold on to their older residents. When you talk about retirees, typically they have disposable income. They have the ability to continue to shop and support the local economy. They’re going to be supporting the local restaurants and retailers, and they keep their families close to them. So, it’s a way for us to not only hold on to our residents, but to attract additional residents as well.”
Brentwood, Tenn.-based Vitality Living, which runs senior living facilities in 10 Southern states, will operate the facility, their first in Louisiana. Copeland said they chose Vitality for its experience, the way the company does business and relates to its residents.
“COVID-19 hasn’t slowed us down. The renovation is going along great, it’s on schedule, and we’re anticipating that we’ll move our first residents in in September,” he said. “It’s been very well received. We’re giving tours and taking reservations now. We’ve had over 100 inquiries and people who’ve already made commitments.”
Kingfish Cider (355 Iris Avenue, Suite A, Southport) celebrated the opening of its tasting room in May. The cidery, one of a handful of solely female-owned distilleries, breweries, or cideries in the nation, exclusively produces alcoholic apple ciders and perry, sometimes referred to as pear cider.
Kingfish was the realization of a four-year dream for owner Colleen Keogh, who first developed the idea for the cidery on a summer trip to Austin, Texas.
“We went to the cideries, tried several of them, and it was just such a cool experience,” she said. “Cider is more akin to a dry white wine, and a perry has a little champagne taste to it. I [thought] I’d love to have something like this at home, but then was like, well, you know, I kind of need to know how to make it.”
Keogh enrolled in a weeklong workshop at Washington State University to study cider- and perry-brewing methods, tinkered with her recipes, and entered them in NOLA On Tap’s home-brewing competitions. After getting positive responses, she bundled personal assets with a loan from JEDCO and launched her dream.
Keogh said she chose the Southport neighborhood by design.
“I live in Old Jefferson, which I think is just a very sweet spot here in the metro New Orleans area,” she said. “We wanted something that we didn’t have to drive all the way to Tchoupitoulas.”
Kingfish’s ciders and perries pay homage to Louisiana’s famous/infamous political family and their times. Huey Perry is a nod to former U.S. Sen. and Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, while Uncle Earl, a hopped apple cider, is named for the Kingfish’s younger brother, former Gov. Earl K. Long. Also on the menu are Blanche, a dry apple cider; Prohibition, a dry perry; and a rotating, seasonal perry made with local produce like strawberries and blueberries.
“I wanted to try to make it as Louisiana-centric as possible through whatever means as I could, and through the name and branding none of them says Louisiana more to me than the Long family. Additionally, I’m only serving Louisiana local craft breweries and liquors.
For now, Kingfish is only available at the taste room, but the cidery is working toward distribution in the future.
“That’s a really cool project and one we’re really proud to have worked on,” Bologna said. “Data shows that communities that have been able to attract microbreweries and taprooms are a magnet for young talent and technology jobs. We’ve been working for some time now to bring some of those types of developments to Jefferson. We see this as a magnet for young talent.”
Southport has traditionally been an industrial neighborhood, but the area has grown into quite a design district with a number of design firms, furnishings stores and antiques dealers that have all located in that area, he said.
“It’s a neighborhood definitely under transition. It’s got a mixture of industrial businesses and commercial entities. And from a residential standpoint, Ochsner’s continued development around there kept real estate moving in the right direction further upriver into old Jefferson as well.”
Churchill Park Developing in Avondale
In a nearly fully developed parish, undeveloped land can provide a novel opportunity. Jefferson’s business leaders targeted an approximately 480-acre portion of the planning area within the levee-protected areas in Avondale for a commercial development known as Churchill Technology and Business Park, or Churchill Park.
The site is already home to JEDCO’s administrative offices and conference center, the Delgado Community College River City Campus, and Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy.
“We’re seeing many of the warehousing and logistics firms that moved to Elmwood 20 and 30 years ago are now expressing an interest in moving just to the other side of the river,” said JEDCO President & CEO Jerry Bologna. “The Elmwood district has been so successful that it almost doesn’t make sense with the cost of real estate there to continue doing warehousing and logistics. It’s priced as a commercial and retail hub, so we’re seeing some businesses start to consider the land right on the other side of the bridge. It only adds five minutes to the commute, and the land is plentiful and cheaper.”
Bologna said initial infrastructure is in place and the park will grow according to a master plan.
“I think this is probably realistically a 10-to-15-year project to get the rest of the infrastructure throughout the property and see full development,” he said.