Outreach's downtown assets going for $1.13 million?

by Leslie Turk

[Update: LPTFA voted Thursday to purchase AOC's assets and assume control of Joie de Vivre.] In a special meeting today at 1:30 p.m., the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority's board will decide whether to approve a deal to take over the controversial Joie de Vivre project and other assets of the nonprofit Acadiana Outreach Center.

[Update: LPTFA voted Thursday to purchase AOC's assets and assume control of Joie de Vivre.]

Reeling from financial ruin caused by gross mismanagement at its Abbeville treatment facility, Acadiana Outreach Center in September turned to the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority to save Joie de Vivre, a $16.5 million mixed-use, affordable housing development near downtown.

The LPTFA, a public trust organized under the laws of the state to benefit Lafayette, has since been conducting due diligence on the project and related assets and today is expected to sign off on a $1.13 million purchase agreement Thursday.

"Because of the dire straits our prior management left us in, we've reached the end of the road," AOC board member Bo Billeaud told The Independent in September.

LPTFA's proposal is to buy AOC's administrative offices, residential buildings used as halfway houses and a number of homes in the vicinity of the Joie de Vivre development that are scheduled to be torn down for its second phase; the trust is not paying for its interest in the mixed-use housing development, Billeaud said this morning. "They're basically stepping up and making the project get built," he said, noting the asset purchase and takeover of the project are not a done deal. "If they say no, everything collapses."

The 1:30 p.m. meeting will be held at Lafayette Consolidated Government's building at 705 W. University Ave. in the director's conference room on the second floor.

Joie de Vivre, which has met strong opposition in the nearby Mills Addition neighborhood, is being partially funded by state and federal grants and federal low-income housing tax credits that will be sold to private investors. Those tax credit investors will own 99.99 percent interest in the project with LPTFA now owning .01 percent.

LPTFA already has an interest in Joie de Vivre, as it loaned the project $1 million. One potential attraction for LPTFA is a $1.9 million development fee, which it would share with the project consultant, its former board member Greg Gachassin.

LPTFA has just completed a similar project it spearheaded, the $10 million Cypress Trails apartment complex in north Lafayette.

Joie de Vivre was supposed to break ground in September 2011 and be finished this year.

But a shell of its former self, Acadiana Outreach continues to run The Lighthouse Shelter for women and children; the critical recovery services it has long provided to people in need remain jeopardized by its financial troubles. "There are some [organizations] that provide those services to some degree or another," Billeaud says, noting that AOC's executive director, Jill Meaux, has been working with other agencies to ensure these individuals and families get the assistance they need.

"If the deal happens, AOC can begin to rebuild," Billeaud says. AOC's board is planning a retreat within the next month, and the board members who have been active in trying to stabilize the non-profit by putting their own money into the organization remain committed to its future.

"What we don't have now is a day shelter downtown," Billeaud says. "That was one of the core services we provided."

View the list of assets and other details in the purchase agreementĀ here.