Records: Stewart only owns 13.58 acres at Parc Lafayette site

by Leslie Turk

Developer Glenn Stewart, it turns out, does not yet own all of the acreage for his proposed Parc Lafayette development. MD-turned-developer Glenn Stewart told The Independent Weekly for a Feb. 23 story that he had invested $15.5 million in land costs, having purchased all 34 acres of his proposed Parc Lafayette lifestyle center in 2009, and another $4 million in infrastructure costs over the past six months. But records with the Lafayette Parish Tax Assessor's Office reveal that's not the case, that he only owns a portion of the tract, and Stewart clarified Thursday that he has a contract on the remaining acreage.

In January 2009 Stewart Family LLC, Birch Tree Estates LLC and Townhouse Plaza LLC purchased 13.58 acres, the front portion of the Kaliste Saloom Road/Camellia Boulevard tract, from the Saloom family for $7.01 million. But the remaining larger parcel down Camellia, 19.39 acres, is still owned by Saloom LLC and Pine Farm Limited Partnership LLC, according to the assessor's office. So why should that matter for a private developer? Because Stewart is asking the Lafayette City-Parish Council to approve the creation of special taxing districts at the site so that he can develop a four- or five-star hotel and convention center, a request that has sparked controversy and outrage among some residents.

The proposed economic development districts - also called a Tax Increment Financing district - are on prime real estate acreage across the street from upscale River Ranch. These types of incentives were made possible by the Louisiana Legislature in 2002 when it amended decades-old incentive laws to allow for a wider range of economic development projects. The proposal before the council calls for an additional 2 cent sales tax and 2 cent hotel occupancy tax at the hotel, and a 1 cent sales tax in the retail development that will surround the hotel. The base sales tax of 8 percent would continue to line the coffers of the state, local government and the Lafayette Parish School Board, and absolutely no tax dollars are on the hook if the development fails; the additional tax expires when the bonds are paid off.

In a brief phone conversation this morning from San Francisco, where he was in a business meeting, Stewart clarified that he has options on the remaining acreage. "We're in a contract. We've got the money set aside. We've already done the wetlands work. We spent $100,000 getting the wetlands mitigated on that property," he said. "It's under contract. We just haven't closed on it yet." So, does Stewart believe having a contract equates to a purchase? "With the amount I have down in it, yes I do," he said. He declined to specify just how much he has invested in the parcel.

Stewart also declined to name the high-end women's department store that will anchor the retail portion of his development, despite that he says a lease has been finalized. He also would not disclose the names of the tenants he says have signed leases for 62,500 square feet of retail at the site. "I'd rather not," he said. "I'm working with the leasing agent, and some of the tenants would rather their name not be disclosed because they're in other current locations right now. Without knowing for sure [if they would be OK with releasing their names], I'd rather not."