Leslie Turk

Downtown Radisson gets Go Zone approval

by Leslie Turk

Jeff Speer's ship appears to have come in — again. For almost a decade now the local attorney has dreamed of opening a deluxe hotel in the heart of downtown Lafayette. And just as he was preparing to get started on a hotel next to the federal courthouse, the 2005 hurricanes hit.

"The world really turned on us when Katrina hit," Speer told The Independent Weekly in 2006. "And then Rita hits. And the banks start waffling in their positions and, of course, if they're going to give you any money, it's going to be at such an exorbitant rate that it really doesn't make it profitable and it starts to kill the project."

Just when the outlook was bleak, in comes the federal Go Zone legislation. After initially being told he'd have to wait in line behind projects in areas with a greater need, Speer's hotel (at the time he was planning a Hilton Homewood Suites product with condos on the top floor) was immediately added to the docket and approved by the State Bond Commission. The bonds, however, disappeared just as quickly, as the commission decided to revisit projects it had previously approved due to an overwhelming docket of requests. On Tuesday, May 20, however, the commission announced that $19.75 million in bonds have been approved to finance the project.

Speer, who could not be reached for comment this morning, previously said that through the Go Zone bonds, the $20 million hotel would be financed with a low 4.5 percent interest rate. The difference in what his loan payments would be compared to a typical pre-Katrina 8 percent interest rate on a 15-year loan was about $40,000 less per month, savings of up to $6.8 million.