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BATON ROUGE, LA-Three years after a land assembly project totaling more than 20 acres began along Nicholson Drive, property has been bought and developer Moreno Properties of Lafayette, LA is readying for a mixed-use project along the corridor, now named New River District. Construction will be launched in January 2010 on 400 apartment units, which will be followed by development of retail and office space.

David Trusty, director of commercial real estate for Gully, Phelps McKey Real Estate of Baton Rouge tells GlobeSt.com that the apartments are going first to stabilize the area and begin the cash flow, which will help fund the remainder of the development. Trusty, who began the land assembly process during the summer of 2006 by reaching out to homeowners along the Nicholson Drive Corridor, says additional phases will include restaurants, shopping and even a hotel.

Furthermore, Magnolia Mound, a mansion listed on the National Historic Registry will be a part of the Nicholson Avenue redevelopment. The mansion, and abundant green space, will be the centerpiece for a park area. Stephen Keller, the Houston developer who developed the 45-acre Towne Center at Cedar Lodge in Baton Rouge is handling development, while new urban architect Steven Oubre with Architects Southwest in Lafayette has provided the master plan design.

Trusty, who is handling leasing for the commercial real estate component of the project acknowledges the area has been blighted for some time. When the Lafayette, LA-based Moreno Development began its parcel assemblage about a year ago, it was with an eye toward rebuilding the five-mile corridor, which links Louisiana State University with downtown Baton Rouge. Trusty says the Moreno-Keller project is geared to be the key to the university, offering a variety of different types of apartments, as well as many amenities.

“Right now we’re just tearing buildings down, but as you look at what’s going on, we’re the first in the area to do something like this,” he explains adding that as other developers see what’s going on with the 20-acre development, they’ll want to jump in to participate as well. “This is a great opportunity to take a blighted area and make it something great.”

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