Top 10 Real Estate Influencers

“The city has not seen real estate development of this scope and magnitude in nearly 50 years.” Those are the words of Gerard Henry, vice president and principal of commercial real estate brokerage firm Max J. Derbes, Inc., and one of this year’s Top 10 Real Estate Influencers. Indeed, it’s hard not to be excited at the growth currently being seen in the real estate marketplace across Southeast Louisiana. In Downtown New Orleans, construction is everywhere: New coworking spaces, hotels, restaurants, and especially multifamily offerings, are popping up it seems on every block. Plus, thanks to the recent addition of Opportunity Zone investments, the growth is starting to really expand on both the commercial and residential fronts to the communities that need it most.

Not all is rosy, however. We continue to struggle with an affordable housing crisis as available land dwindles and labor and materials costs continue to climb. Public resources provided in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita are drying up, as are possible historic renovation projects. Moving forward, we will be forced to deal with these issues, along with an aging infrastructure and a lack of skilled workforce. How we handle all of these challenges will determine the future growth and success of the region we all call home.


Zachary H. Kupperman

Founder & CEO
Kupperman Companies

Kupperman Companies is a real estate development and investment firm that designs, develops and acquires hotels, retail, office, multifamily and mixed-use projects across the Southeast. The company invests in award-winning historic redevelopments designed to preserve the architecture and culture of the surrounding community. Notable projects include: Hotel Saint Vincent (1507 Magazine St.); The Drifter Hotel (3522 Tulane Ave.); The Frenchmen Hotel (417 Frenchmen St.); The Rampart Hotel (300 S. Rampart St.); 31 West Congress Ave. (Savannah, Georgia); and 800 S. First St. (Austin, Texas).

What are you most excited for in the coming year? I’m excited about the future of New Orleans. Our city is moving in the right direction for the first time in a long time. I see amazing prospects for the growth of our economy, development of our community and preservation of our culture. I’m also excited about bringing fresh ideas and concepts to the city and the continued development and urbanization of Downtown New Orleans.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? The stock of larger, vacant historic structures that need renovating is dwindling, but I’m hopeful that our economy will grow fast enough to create the demand to justify the cost of more new construction. We are proud to play our small part in the revitalization and growth of New Orleans.


Terri B. North

President and CEO
Providence Community Housing

Providence Community Housing is a nonprofit real estate development organization focused on transforming lives and communities through the development and preservation of affordable homes. A member of NeighborWorks America, Providence has developed more than 1,500 units of housing and helped more than 600 individuals and families become homeowners throughout the Greater New Orleans Area. Notable properties include: Sacred Heart at St. Bernard (with Columbia Residential); Bell Artspace Campus (with Artspace); Faubourg Lafitte (with Enterprise Community Partners); St. Bakhita Apartments in Marrero; and numerous senior affordable housing properties in conjunction with the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? In New Orleans, 45% of Louisiana renters are rent-burdened (pay more than 50% of their income on rent), the fifth-highest rate in the country. Only 38 units of affordable housing are available for every 100 individuals in need. Producing more than 30,000 affordable homes is critical to the well-being of New Orleans. 2020 will be the year to set the foundation for growth and equity in our community. Having this issue in the forefront allows Providence the opportunity to find partners in the fields of health, finance and government to create a larger impact in improving quality of life for EVERYONE in our community.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? In developing and preserving affordable homes, the greatest challenge is two-fold: insufficient resources and rising costs. As the public resources supplied to recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been depleted, there is far less funding available to continue building new affordable units. At the same time, the cost of labor and materials has continued to rise. Therefore, finding innovations that can produce that same level of quality but are more cost efficient is a major goal for us and finding partners to offset the loss of public funding is vital.


Delisha Boyd

Real Estate Broker/Notary Public
Delisha Boyd, LLC

A top producing agent for more than 15 years, Delisha Boyd opened her own firm in 2014. In five years, the team has grown from two (Boyd and her daughter) to nearly 50 agents, including several platinum-selling, multimillion-dollar producing agents. Boyd has been recognized by the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors (NOMAR) as a candidate for Manager of the Year for three consecutive years and received Excellence in Real Estate awards in both 2018 and 2019. Both Boyd and the brokerage are licensed in Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? I am excited about the available resources for buyers. The unexpected lowering of the mortgage interest rates has been a welcomed surprise. In addition, the multiple programs available to buyers to assist in homeownership will shift the supply and demand and encourage, even inspire, existing homeowners to sell their homes. The lower interest rates, availability of bond and grant funds, and more homes available for sale will counteract rising home prices. In the coming year, and for the remainder of 2019, we can expect the housing market to continue to improve in both sales and pricing. We are also excited about becoming the listing brokerage for a new, 20-unit condo development on Freret Street.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? The biggest challenge is finding qualified lenders and mortgage brokers to work with the wide array of buyers, especially those who are self-employed. Surprisingly, even with the lowest rates in history, some people have not been able to qualify for mortgage financing. Many lenders have tightened guidelines, and some lenders aren’t qualified to or have refused to participate in some of the bond and grant funding programs. This is slowly creating a marketplace with excess inventory, attractive interest rates and very few qualified buyers.


Larry Schedler

Larry G. Schedler & Associates, Inc.

Larry G. Schedler & Associates, Inc. is a real estate firm that specializes exclusively in marketing multifamily assets throughout the Gulf South. They have transacted over $4.5 billion in multifamily assets. Notable projects within the past few years include: The Esplanade at City Park (443 units); American Can Apartments (268 units); AVR Portfolio (2,079 units); Millennium Towne Centre Apartments (276 units); Morguard Portfolio (643 units); Grand Pointe Apartments (266 units); Pelican Pointe Apartments (266 units); and East New Orleans Portfolio (1,600 units).

What are you most excited for in the coming year? Both private and institutional investors have taken note of the sound fundamentals and returns in the multifamily space. As a result, they continue to seek opportunities in the metro New Orleans market for all asset classes — from affordable to luxury housing. Over the past decade, we have seen many neighborhoods revitalized by the development of large-scale multifamily communities (South Market District, Two Saints, Lumina, 930 Poydras, etc.) This demand should remain strong in the coming year as rental rates and high occupancy levels will inevitably continue to attract investors.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? The barriers to entry in developing multifamily housing in New Orleans are significant. Scarcity of large tracts of land, coupled with rising construction costs, make the development of affordable housing without a subsidy virtually impossible. Meeting the need for affordable housing is a challenge facing cities all over the country. The solution can best be accomplished by public/private partnerships with experienced developers.


Eugene Schmitt

Urban Properties Real Estate, LLC.

Urban Properties Real Estate, LLC, is a boutique real estate consulting, development, brokerage, and property management firm focused on urban projects in New Orleans. With a background in development, finance and asset management, coupled with an understanding of the local market, the company aims to craft innovative and practical real estate solutions. Notable projects include concepts such as St. Roch Market / Politan Row (in Chicago), Social Bicycles (an Uber company), Framework, Zasu, and local expansions of Goodbird and The Daily Beet.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? The rise and level of prominence of New Orleans as a market as it relates to recognition from the country. Retailers, businesses and developers from outside the city are starting to recognize New Orleans as a thriving market. Growth and betterment of the city since Katrina is at a tipping point where outside markets and brands are attracted to the city now. From an economic development standpoint, we have properly branded our culture, architecture and way of living to the outside world, to the point where others want to be a part of it. This is evident in the increase in hotel development and national brands coming to market. From a development standpoint, New Orleans has stayed true to itself, but at the same time is inclusive of the outside trends and influences in terms of bringing in forward-thinking brands and business.

I also believe there are a lot of areas in this city that are poised for growth. We are seeing a lot of interest in the Lower Garden District, the Warehouse District and the Lafitte Greenway.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? In New Orleans specifically, it’s the presence or reality of the deteriorating infrastructure of the city. An adequate sum of tax dollars should be allocated to updating our antiquated infrastructure. From an industry trend standpoint, it will be interesting to see how the New Orleans office market evolves to keep up with national trends such as co-working and a waning demand for typical downtown office product. That, coupled with slower job growth compared to other markets, will put some downward pressure on CBD office space.


Wesley J. Palmisano

Founder and Floor Sweeper

Palmisano is a commercial and civil firm specializing in vision, creativity, partnership and results. In just six years, the company has increased annual revenues to $125 million, completed over 100 projects and hired more than 140 employees. Notable projects include: Ace Hotel; Maison de la Luz; The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden Expansion at the New Orleans Museum of Art; The Higgins Hotel and Conference Center at the National World War II Museum; Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy; Hotel St. Vincent; and Kimpton New Orleans.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? We remain optimistic and excited about the opportunities presented by continued growth of the Greater New Orleans region. The metropolitan area continues to add new jobs in diverse sectors and tourism remains strong. We believe there will be opportunity in a variety of construction sectors. More specifically, we are excited about numerous proposed new developments in the downtown urban core that fit within our core areas of expertise.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? For over a century, the modern construction industry has been the backbone of American success. But the industry is stuck. It’s being held back by outdated processes and is missing out on the opportunity to improve the construction experience for the next generation. We know that to continue our legacy of hard work, partnership and philanthropy, we have to evolve. That’s why we created a new kind of construction company designed to foster the next generation of leaders, a place where talented renegades are empowered to share their best work with millions of people, and where bold new ideas and technologies are embraced and cultivated.


Gerard Henry

Vice President and Principal
Max J. Derbes, Inc.

Founded in 1934, Max J. Derbes Inc. is a full-service commercial real estate brokerage serving the Gulf South region. Projects of note include the sale of the Avondale Shipyard, The Sazerac House museum and distillery at Canal and Magazine streets, and the relocation of Hancock Whitney Bank corporate headquarters. Vice president and principal at the firm, Gerard Henry, has practiced real estate for 30 years.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? I am most excited about the continued investment in real estate development in the New Orleans area. The investments are diverse — ranging from the redevelopment of the former Avondale Shipyard to the mixed-use projects in Central City, Uptown and New Market South. The city has not seen real estate development of this scope and magnitude in nearly 50 years. I believe we will see not only the continued renovation of existing structures, but growth in new commercial construction as obsolete structures are replaced.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? I believe the biggest challenge facing the real estate industry in New Orleans is the lack of available land for development. This is a significant factor in commercial, as well as residential real estate, evidenced by the accelerated demolition of older, less functional properties for redevelopment with multistory, mixed-use buildings. Due to limited supply, land values have been continually elevated, making development more expensive. This issue directly affects housing and commercial development in the form of higher occupancy costs for owners and tenants.


Kelly Longwell

Director and Managing Director of the New Orleans office of Coats Rose

Coats Rose affordable housing and community development attorneys work with developers, owners and operators of public and private residential rental housing for individuals, families, elderly and special needs populations to create innovative solutions for affordable housing, including utilizing tax credits, HUD funding and philanthropic dollars. The firm recently served as development counsel to Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, Inc. on CrescentCare Community Health Center, a 65,000-square-foot comprehensive medical campus that offers a suite of services, including primary medical care, dentistry, pediatrics, HIV counseling and testing, case management and behavioral health services to New Orleans.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? I am most excited about the expansion of using Opportunity Zone investments. This investment tool was enacted roughly 18 months ago and will provide much-needed funding in distressed communities across the country.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? The top issues in real estate law are affordable housing and its impacts on communities. What happens to the low-income resident in a gentrifying district? Residents are forced to either find properties they can now afford in the area or move to a new district. Foreclosures and evictions begin to rise as residents can no longer afford housing. Federal and state subsidies available for affordable housing are scarce and not sufficient to fill the need.
In Bywater, we are working with developers to create both rental and for-sale affordable housing. The popularity of this neighborhood has increased property values significantly in recent years. Landlords can demand rent in excess of $1,500 for a two-bedroom unit, which is almost double what an average tenant can afford to pay. The historical residents are having to look for other areas to live in. The proposed affordable housing will allow the neighbors to remain in the area without being rent burdened.


James E. Neville

Neville Development

Neville Development specializes in developing affordable multifamily housing, senior living facilities and small-scale commercial projects in the New Orleans metro area. The company’s projects include Liberty Place Apartments, a historic rehabilitation of several doubles in the Uptown neighborhood; Roman-Bienville Homes, a three-unit project in Mid-City that’s a mix of both historic rehab and new construction; and the G.O. Mondy School Apartments, a former school building left vacant after Katrina, that has been converted into a 35-unit project for seniors.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? I am really looking forward to completing our current 45-unit scattered site project in the Lower Ninth Ward. This historic neighborhood really needs more investment from the private sector and a lot more love from the public sector, like the Department of Public Works, New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and Code Enforcement. We also have a great new historic adaptive reuse of a former department store in Donaldsonville that is going to be a lot of fun. We hope to get started with that in the spring of 2020.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? The challenges today haven’t really changed since I first began working with LIHTC (Low-Income Housing Tax Credit) projects 25 years ago. There is a delicate balance to building a quality project, no different from a market-rate project, except we work in areas with lower acquisition costs that are still located where residents will feel safe and are close to public transportation and job opportunities. Also, historic buildings are becoming harder and harder to find.


Wade Ragas

Real Estate Investments and Valuation Expert

Since Hurricane Katrina, renowned economist Wade Ragas has worked on over $1 billion in real estate valuations and market feasibility studies. His practice includes being a real estate expert witness in state and federal courts, offering seminars on current market conditions and providing quarterly opinions as a SITUS/ Real Estate Research Corp. survey respondent. An MAI commercial and residential appraiser, Ragas holds a PhD in finance from Ohio State University and an MBA from the University of New Orleans.

What are you most excited for in the coming year? I’m most excited to see a strong resumption of nationwide growth with historically low interest rates that can benefit a wide range of industries in Southeast Louisiana. The New Orleans metro area is successfully attracting new households to Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes in higher volumes than we were before Katrina. Employment — the engine that draws new households here — has also grown at a rate of 12,000 jobs a year for the past two years.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re seeing? The biggest challenge lies in providing the skilled labor force to attract the evolving AI (artificial intelligence) and cloud-driven technologies, along with internationally oriented young professionals. We must also overcome the drainage failures of the Sewerage and Water Board in Orleans, which threatens to destroy 15 years of work to attract new households from around the country here. In addition, compounding the constant risk of serious street flooding is the rise of street crime and thefts.