Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Surprise! Hotel Boom Not Over...

After years of hotel construction in Lafayette, get ready for another new property. The Best Western brand is returning to Pinhook Rd., just across the street from what used to be the Best Western Hotel Acadiana (now a Crowne Plaza). A building permit has been issued for the Best Western Oil Center Suites on Rue Fernand, which is just behind Chili's.

I've heard that Oil Center hotels frequently stay fully booked with business travelers during the week. I guess that would explain why so many hotels have recently opened in the Pinhook / Kaliste Saloom area (Staybridge Suites, Wingate Inn, Residence Inn, Holiday Inn Express). The hotel is permitted at $1.8 million.

New Louisiana Mall on Hold

If you've driven down I-12 through St. Tammany Parish in the past year or so, you must have noticed the commercial construction boom along the corridor. As the Northshore population exploded after Hurricane Katrina, so did commercial development. Now it seems one project that hoped to cash in on new Northshore neighbors is temporarily on ice.

New Orleans TV station WDSU reports Nord du Lac, a major lifestyle retail center which was going to have about 100 stores, will not open in March as planned. The report says the buildings that have been completed are simply being mummified in Tyvek - only to be unwrapped when the economy begins to recover. There are also concerns about the fate of a very similar project (called Summit Fremeaux) in Slidell, where construction is in more preliminary stages.

Even though I do believe the post-Katrina Northshore market was over-hyped, I think the slowdown on these two projects can be mostly attributed to skittish national retailers. Both projects are coming from respectable national retail developers. But right now, no one wants to expand.

The only similar property that was even proposed in Lafayette, was the development of the huge chunk of land at the Ambassador Caffery / Kaliste Saloom intersection. River Ranch developer Robert Daigle, who was also trying to create an outdoor mall at that site tells me all plans are on hold until the national retailers decide they want to once again grow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Furniture Store, New Restaurant Coming to River Ranch

The huge building to the right of Fresh Market in River Ranch will soon have a tenant. Developer Robert Daigle tells me Paul Michael Furniture hopes to open in the space September 15. Daigle says the high-end furniture retailer was looking for a location in South Louisiana, and chose Lafayette over Baton Rouge and other cities.

The large space on Kaliste Saloom Rd. at the front of the development has been empty since it has been built. Daigle says he was approached by a number of retailers who asked to divide up the building, but he wanted to lease it as a whole slot.

Also, Bella Figura's replacement will open in about four weeks in the City Club building at River Ranch's main square. City Club Bar and Grill will be a members-only restaurant with a Pat Mould-crafted menu. Daigle says the menu and feel of the restaurant will be much like the first City Club restaurant that opened in that space when the entire facility first opened a few years ago.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Things to Buy in Maurice

Maurice residents will soon get a new place to buy pretty much anything. Dollar General is building a new store on Hwy. 167 just south of Hwy. 92. The site is next door to Mr. Keet's seafood restaurant with a Family Dollar two doors down.

Recent growth has brought new suburban-style residential development to the Maurice / Northern Vermilion Parish area, and these folks need somewhere to shop.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New CC's: Ambassador at Congress

After closing the chain's store on Ambassador Caffery Pkwy. near Robley Dr. just last month, CC's Community Coffee House is set to break ground on a new store just down the road. Ground breaking is scheduled for this week on a new stand-alone store on Ambassador at W. Congress St.

The drive-thru store will face Ambassador, and will be located next to the Valero gas station, in front of Albertson's. "Weather permitting; we should be open January/February timeframe," says Sean Marlow, the company's real estate and store operations manager. CC's nearest competitor will be the Starbucks in front of Wal-Mart down Ambassador. The new store will be the Baton Rouge-based chain's eighth location in Lafayette.

UPDATE: Warehouse District Lofts

Lafayette is not known as a town to embrace modern architecture. I believe we're the heart of the French Country belt (roughly Houston to Gulfport), where almost everything looks like it has been magically transported from Provence (and has a garage that faces the street). We're about to get our first full-on taste of industrial residential design.

The first phase of the Warehouse District Lofts on South College Rd. near West Bayou Pkwy. is now framed up, and you can instantly recognize the angular lines from down the road. Signs on the units show a few are sold, with some still available. A similar project in Baton Rouge has proven successful, so it will be interesting to see if this complex whets the appetite of Lafayette condo buyers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Progress at Southwest Volkswagen

Work continues at Acadiana's first Volkswagen dealership in two decades. Southwest Volkswagen is under construction on Johnston Street, just past Duhon Rd. (across from Giles). The dealership is owned by the same folks who own Southpoint Volkswagen in Baton Rouge.

If you're thinking this may be the worst time ever to open a new car dealership, you may be right. Many experts are assuming that Americans simply will not buy as many cars as we did just a few years ago. But, there are indicators that show Lafayette should be able to support this dealership. First off, we're doing better than almost every other part of the country. People are still buying cars here. Also, this New York Times story says European brands, like VW, are gaining market share as companies like GM and Chrysler meltdown.

Cane's Coming to Broussard

Cane's continues its march to worldwide domination by opening a store in Broussard. The newest Acadiana location will be in front of the new Wal-Mart and Home Depot on St. Nazaire Rd. The Louisiana-based chicken tender chain has three locations in Lafayette, one in New Iberia, and one on the way in Opelousas.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sugarcrest Shopping Center Also Opens in Broussard

When you build Wal-Mart and Home Depot, they will come. I'm talking about all of those chain stores that sell everything from sporting goods to cookies that seem to dominate the omnipresent strip shopping centers near major retailers. Well - they're on their way to Broussard.

Sugarcrest shopping center is now open on St. Nazaire Rd., next to the Wal-Mart on Hwy. 90. So far, only two tenants are open - Dollar Tree and Hershey's Ice Cream and Cookies. There looked to be construction in one other slot, but the rest of the center is empty for now. If Broussard shoppers would like to know which stores they can expect - just head to any other neighboring Wal-Mart. They tend to attract the exact same neighbors in town after town. It's obvious that the proximity works out well for both groups.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

UPDATE: Movie Theater to Furniture Store

So just how much does it cost to turn a movie theater into a furniture store? Evidently, about $1.2 million. A few days ago, Bassett furniture got a building permit in that amount as work begins to convert the former Carmike Theater at the Mall of Acadiana into a furniture outlet.

The movie theater closed earlier this year. Bassett Furniture is currently located across Johnston in the former Target building. No word on how long the work will take.

UPDATE: Candy Craze Opens

The Mall of Acadiana is back in the candy business. Candy Craze opened Friday according to the mall's Marketing Specialist, Brian Lutz. Evidently lots of people missed the old candy store, which was in the food court. "This addition has been highly requested by ourguests as well as our mall employees,” Lutz tells me.

Candy Craze is located next to the Gap, and is joined by new mall tenants Yankee Candle Company and Sephora.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Broussard LaQuinta Now Open

As the hotel boom begins to cool down, Broussard's first chain hotel is now open for business. The La Quinta Inn & Suites is now open on Sweetland Pkwy. - which is across Hwy. 182 from the Celebrity Theater near Hwy. 90. Before the La Quinta, the only accomodations in town were found at the Bel-Air Motel - an almost vintage hide away on Main Street.
A few months ago, the owner told me he was excited to catch some of Hwy. 90's oil-related business. I believe this is the only hotel between Hwy. 14 in New Iberia and the twin older hotels in front of the airport in Lafayette.

"Super Taco Buffet": Cross Your Fingers

I'd like to ask anyone if you can nominate a building in Lafayette that has been home to so many different buffet restaurants. Super Taco Buffet will soon open in this building on Johnston at Rena (next to Don's Seafood Hut). The last business in the building was El Dorado Taco Buffet. I was once dragged there by a friend... and let's just say I'm not surprised that they weren't able to make it. Here's to hoping Super Taco Buffet can find that mexican buffet magic that so many others have found so elusive.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Broussard Plaza Tenants Open

As Broussard continues to grow into a bona-fide suburb, a new shopping center on Highway 90 at Morgan Street is ready to give new residents those city comforts. A number of tenants at Broussard Plaza are now open, or will open soon. Signs up so far include Quiznos, New Orleans Daiquiris, Edward Jones, Jagged Edge Hair Salon and Sushi Roxx.

Those names account for about half of the center's available space. When I did a story on this project when it was first announced, the developer told me he'd like to lease space for some medical offices.

It's so strange to think that just a few years ago the only retail options along Hwy. 90 between Lafayette and New Iberia were a few gas stations. That first started to change with the Albertson's-anchored center on Hwy. 182, and the area's retail stature was bumped up again when Wal-Mart and The Home Depot opened last year across the street.

The new Ambassador Caffery extension will hit Hwy. 90 just south of Wal-Mart / Albertson's, near the Zoo of Acadiana. Expect that intersection, and that entire 6 + mile stretch of roadway to eventually become one long retail corridor.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Interactive Map Udate

I've updated On The Greaux.com's interactive development map. Click here to see where businesses are sprouting up all over Acadiana. The Google map link is always available in the right-hand column.

Tell me what you think of the map? What else should be added?

View On The Greaux in a larger map

Halfway House Renovated for Office Space

I always thought it was a strange place to build a halfway house. The building pictured above was designed to look like a residential home, but was built in an office park on La Rue France - directly across the Vermilion River from the Hilton. Now the building has been bought by a group of local professionals, and its new use will fit in with the neighbors.

Lafayette architect Andrew Perrin tells me he designed the changes that are under construction right now to turn the building into office space for his firm, Perrin & Associates, and his father's law firm - Perrin, Landry, deLaunay, Dartez and Ouellet. The law firm is moving from just a few doors down.

Andrew Perrin says a change in government funding for halfway houses sank the business model of the building's previous owners. The firms should move in some time this summer.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From Daiquiris to Used Cars

For years, it was the little daiquiri shack on Johnston with the alligator on the sign. Soon, it will be the street's latest car dealership. The former Daiquiri Hut at Johnston and Antigua will soon become Southwest Autosport. Construction has begun on the small building, and I'm not sure how many cars you can squeeze onto that lot. Here's what the building used to look like... remember?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Upscale Burgers Headed to River Ranch

River Ranch will soon add anothing dining option along Camellia Blvd. when Burgersmith opens this summer. Two Lafayette partners are opening the upscale burger joint behind the Van Eaton & Romero building, across from the Tap Room. Owner Ross Umbricht tells me, "we use USDA prime beef, and feature high quality local ingredients, and Louisiana craft-style breweries." Umbricht promises more details when the restaurant is closer to opening.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

VooDoo BBQ Needs Gris Gris for Lafayette Store

If you're a fan of VooDoo BBQ, think about sending a positive spell their way. The company sasy it's looking for a franchise partner in Lafayette as it continues to expand in South Louisiana. The chain started in New Orleans, and is now based in Baton Rouge. Just last week, an agreement for a Houma franchise was reached, according to The Advocate. VooDoo CEO Tony Avila tells me, "The Lafayette market is one we are very anxious to move into once we have the right person for the market."

The chain currently has restaurants in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. Their menu is pretty standard - but the corn pudding and BBQ shrimp are unique offerings.

Monday, June 1, 2009

La. Ave. Development Adds Bank

Capital One will be the first local bank to open a branch in the new shopping center on Louisiana Avenue at I-10. A sign is up on a piece of property next to Chick-fil-A. The bank's other neighbor will be a new Taco Bell, which is in the very early stages of construction.

Extreme Transformation at Former Northgate Theater

I had to do a double take when I first saw the progress at the old Northgate movie theater on Moss Street. The building is being converted into a shopping center that looks like its brand-new. When I called the number on the sign for more information, I reached Affordable Home Furniture, which is a store located just a few blocks away in the old Wal-Mart building on the Evangeline Thruway.

I haven't gotten a call back, but it seems like the furniture store will be the new shopping center's first tenant. The Affordable logo is on a rendering of the development. It looks like tenants for the other slots have not yet been finalized. The view in the picture above is from Castille Ave., a row of smaller store fronts faces Moss. The Northgate Theater closed years ago.