Leslie Turk

River Ranch begins $16 million apartment project

by Leslie Turk

Construction has certainly slowed in Lafayette, but it's by no means come to a screeching halt. River Ranch is confident enough in the strength of the local economy to follow through with its plans to spend $16 million on an apartment complex behind Fresh Market and Pippin McGee. The land -- along River Ranch and Settlers Trace boulevards -- has been cleared, with job trailers arriving this week. It's not only the largest commercial project of the year, but the $13.9 million permit also ranks No. 7 among all new commercial construction jobs since May 1999, according to Lafayette Consolidated Government's Jeff Larcade of the planning, zoning and codes department. Include the value of the land, and the total investment jumps to about $18.5 million, says developer Robert Daigle.

The complex, called Main Street Annex, is Phase II of the traditional neighborhood's Main Street development, which houses a mix of retail and living spaces, including restaurants like Another Broken Egg and Zoe's. The annex includes 143 apartments -- one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging in price from $800 to $1,500 a month. It'll have 11,200 square feet of retail, which will front the boulevard behind Fresh Market.

River Ranch's partner on the project is the same New Orleans group that helped it co-develop The Crescent and the first Main Street apartment complex, both of which boast occupancy levels in the 95-97 percent range, according to Daigle. The Crescent has 158 units and Main Street 265. And while there has been much speculation about lenders' unwillingness to finance construction during this uncertain economic climate, Daigle says financing was not a problem. The group stuck with the same Birmingham, Ala., company, Capmark Finance, for both interim and permanent financing because the company offers "very aggressive rates and terms," Daigle says.

But that doesn't mean local banks were unwilling to step up to the plate. "Within the last year we had local banks inquiring about this project," he says.