LC Council moves forward with developer deal

By Lee Peck - bio | email


Apartments, shops, restaurants and more - it's the development the City of Lake Charles hopes will act as catalyst for future development along the lakefront. The financing for the multimillion dollar project lies in the hands of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"Without the HUD guarantee, what's the chances of this even going forward," asked Councilman Marshall Simien.

Not much - according to Cypress Group developer Chris Rinaudo.

"I need to have an agreement in place so that I can continue to move forward," said Rinaudo.

The original concept, which included a 450 car parking garage, was approved by the Lake Charles Downtown Development Authority. However, it's just a concept - the Cypress Group is still working on a final design before applying for the funding.

"My mind is trying to wrap around how do you design something until you know how much the financing is going to be. I can conceptually come up with the Taj Mahal and get financing for an outhouse," said Simien.

"That is the dilemma that we are in because I don't know exactly what HUD is going to tell me they will finance they may say they will do the 220 units that's available - we are showing you there - or they may say lets do 175," explained Rinaudo.

"If that is the case, that doesn't give you enough money to put a parking garage. Because you were at 300 something units. So there wouldn't be enough money for a parking garage," said Councilman Dana Jackson.

Rinaudo says much of the original concept was based on market studies from several years ago. He explained they'll need to do their own market studies for today's market and proposed doing the project in phases based on what the financing they can lock down with HUD.

"I can only do what the market allows me to do," said Rinaudo.

For many the parking garage was the real deal maker - and without it say:

"I think it is substantially different from what the DDA was looking for," said Councilman Stuart Weatherford.

"We've talked about whether we get financing for it or not. We need to stop take a step back and let the man do his job and let the man get it together. If we don't - to me we have kind of been negotiating in bad faith because we should have cut him off right in the beginning," said Councilman Mark Eckard.

"We are going to be looking back at this and saying did we make a good or bad decision. Some of us will be telling our grandchildren we either were happy with what we did or not... And we have a decision to make," said Weatherford.

After much discussion, the council approved moving forward with the Cypress Group with the following added requirements:

A.) Advertise to allow local subcontractors the opportunity to bid on the projects.

B.) Acquire a development plan within 30 days of the effective date.

C.) Provide full disclosure of any HUD restrictions that would effect this project in any way.

D.) Include a parking garage in a development plan.

E.) The overall plan would include a mixture of 80% residential and 20% commercial.

Bottom line the Cypress Group has 30 days to come up with a final concept for the DDA to recommend for final approval by the council. If it fails - the Cypress Group has another 30 days to come back to the council with an improved version. If it passes from that point - they'll start application process with HUD for funding, which could take up to a year - but according to city officials they should have a good idea within 60 days if HUD plans to move forward with funding the project.

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