Oct. 7, 2016 05:04 PM

Could Mike Moreno be getting his hands back on the acreage he bought in the mid-2000s for his proposed River District development? Rendering by Architects Southwest

Baton Rouge Business Report notes in a Friday story that a federal judge has cleared the way for New York-based Goldman Sachs Bank to take title to approximately 40 acres of property along Nicholson Drive that Lafayette oilman Mike Moreno gobbled up over the years in hopes of developing it into a mixed-use development.

Moreno has called his proposed development River District.

The order, signed Sept. 28 by U.S. Magistrate Mark Hornsby, is the final procedural step in a 15-month foreclosure battle that began in July 2015, when the bank sued Moreno for defaulting on a $52.4 million loan. Moreno opposed the suit and the case was stalled in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana until late May, when a federal judge rejected Moreno’s attempt to bring the case to arbitration.

Once Goldman Sachs takes title to the property, the bank will sell it, which local real estate agents and developers have said could be a good thing that helps get the long-stalled project finally moving. Both local and out-of-state investors are interested in some or all of the property, according to various sources, who have been watching the saga of the River District unfold over the years.

Over the past several months, word bubbled up that Moreno was working with one of his longtime business partners, Kevin Moody of the The Moody Co., to try to hold onto the River District property. Now that the Goldman takeover has been finalized, is the Moreno/Moody partnership (which could include others) negotiating a buyout of the property from the bank or, possibly, has a deal already been struck?

It's the latter, one ABiz real estate source says, but confirmation will probably have to wait. A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, who asked that questions about the future of the Baton Rouge property be emailed to her, had not responded by late Friday.

On Monday, Goldman Sachs responded that it is declining to comment.

ABiz’s phone message left with Kevin Moody’s office was not returned.

In July 2015, Goldman Sachs Bank sued Moreno, his wife Tiffany and a number of his various entities for defaulting on a $52 million loan he took out in Oct. 11, 2013, just two weeks before his fracking company, Green Field Energy Services, went belly-up and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was later liquidated and went out of business.

The bank said at the time it was owed $58 million in principal and interest.

Filed in federal court in Lafayette, the suit sought to seize and sell the property pledged as collateral on the loan to Moreno, which included not only the River District property but also what’s referred to in legal documents as the “Port Road Property” (also known as the West Yard at the Port of Iberia, which formerly housed Dynamic Industries). Over the course of seven or so years, Moreno and his sister, Dalis Waguespack, worked to accumulate property on both sides of Nicholson Drive, between Downtown and LSU.

Read more about the suit and Moreno’s other legal problems here.

Business Report points out that since Moreno began buying up property along Nicholson Drive near Magnolia Mound Plantation in the mid-2000s, a lot has changed along the corridor. Read its story here.

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