Legal Matters

River District developer adding acreage to property Goldman Sachs aims to seize

by Stephanie Riegel

Recent court filings suggest negotiations to sell the property and pay off the mortgage could be in the works.

Recent court filings over seizure of the River District property and an application to add acreage to the long-delayed development shed little light on the status of the Baton Rouge project.
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The Lafayette developers of the River District — a proposed mixed-use development that is planned for 42 acres straddling Nicholson Drive between LSU and downtown — have filed an application with the Planning Commission to add 6.9 more acres to their long-stalled project.

The new acreage consists primarily of a parking lot and warehouse located between River Road and the railroad tracks. The property is not immediately adjacent to the existing River District property.

The proposed change comes as lawyers appear to be working toward a settlement in a 10-month-long federal foreclosure suit over the property. Last July, Goldman Sachs sued the project’s developer, oilman Mike Moreno, for defaulting on a $52 million loan and has been trying to seize the Nicholson corridor property, as well as other Moreno holdings that were put up as collateral.

Moreno opposed the suit, and the case was stalled for months in U.S. District Court for the Western District. Recent court filings, however, suggest negotiations to sell the property and pay off the mortgage could be in the works.

In a conference call on May 2, attorneys for both sides met with U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty and discussed a resolution whereby they agreed not to sell an unrelated piece of Moreno property at issue in a separate Texas lawsuit “until a determination is made in the matter pending before this court as to whether or not a sale of the mortgaged Louisiana property will satisfy the outstanding loan balance.”

It is unclear whether the addition to the River District of the 6.9 acres on River Road is related to negotiations over the future of the property or a potential sale. Documents filed Thursday on behalf of Moreno Properties by Stantec engineering do not specify why the additional acreage is needed for the project.

Moreno began buying up property along Nicholson Drive near Magnolia Mound Plantation in the mid-2000s for the River District but was never able to get the development off the ground.

Stephanie Riegel is editor of Business Report, where this story first appeared.