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Residential Update
New Developments Bring New Opportunities to Live it Up Downtown
Downtown is quickly becoming one of the most desirable places to live in Baton Rouge. With quality schools, new green spaces like the North Boulevard Town Square, exciting entertainment options and unparalleled cultural amenities all within walking distance, more and more people are starting to realize Downtown is the perfect place to call home.

Baton Rouge native and new Downtown resident Erin Miletello says, "There are so many new restaurants, shops and bars, it definitely doesn't feel like I'm in the same Baton Rouge anymore."

Miletello, a recent law school graduate, is one of the lucky new residents moving into the beautifully renovated Tessier Building, located near the corner of Lafayette and Laurel Streets in Downtown Baton Rouge.

Recognized as one of the oldest buildings in Baton Rouge, these townhouse style buildings feature Spanish-Colonial architecture, high ceilings, wood floors, a full range of appliances, large expanses of glass, huge balconies nearly 10 feet deep, and the building's original cast-iron gallery fencing.

One of the three commercial units even features a stunning view overlooking the Mississippi River-the first of its kind in Downtown Baton Rouge.

This was a major selling point for Lonni Conorgio, owner of Tilt Graphic Design, who recently moved back Downtown into the Tessier Building after leaving the city's center more than 6 years ago.

"The view is incredible," Conorgio said. "I can see a car, a train, and a boat all from sitting behind my desk. The balcony is an tremendous asset, it is something we use everyday."

Over the course of its 200-year history, the Tessier Building has been home to many prominent Baton Rougeians, including Judge Charles Tessier, the first probate judge of East Baton Rouge Parish, and Frances and Jules Landry, preservationists who purchased the building in the 1950's to prevent this historic landmark from being torn down.

Like so many of Downtown's most unique assets, it fell into a state of disrepair over the years and remained uninhabited until someone came along with the passion and the drive to restore it to its former glory. Those people were Dyke Nelson and David Weinstein at the DNA Workshop.

As the owners and developers of the Tessier Building, Nelson and Weinstein began the renovation last year with the goal of respecting the original architecture and restoring as much as possible, while also adding high tech amenities and sustainable features to make the building more attractive to modern-day tenants.

"I've always focused on sustainable architecture, and one of the most sustainable things you can do is renovate a building rather than build a new one," Nelson said. "The Tessier renovation was indeed a herculean task, but it's one that we gladly took on."

"We had one person [working on this project] whose entire job was simply to restore-not to rip out, but to restore," Weinstein said. "From the doors, to the windows and the wood, we saved as much as we could. That's attractive to a lot of people, but it's also a part of our core beliefs. It's the way we do business."

"As owners, we felt it was important to develop this project consistent with LEED design standards-that means focusing on energy efficiency, proper disposal of waste from the site and many other elements that contribute to a healthy environment." Nelson said.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council which provides an independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.

"Now that the project is complete we are submitting those documents and hoping for a LEED gold certification" Nelson continued. Energy efficiency and sustainability were additional selling points for Conorgio.

"We expressed interested in leasing more than a year ago, long before we actually saw the results of the renovation," Conorgio said. "We share the same philosophy for high design and green sustainability. That was a very big draw for us, and now that we are in the building we have not been disappointed."

The commercial unit features historic architecture in a 2,000 square foot open workspace setting with modern day amenities such as motion sensors and a high tech A/C system that can be remotely controlled through an iPhone application. "The character that this building has is incredible, and the location is unbeatable," Conorgio said. "We love it."

Clearly, many others were impressed by the project as well.

Residential Waiting Lists Abound
"We listed the property on the DDD website on a Tuesday," Nelson said. "We received six calls that day, showed two days later and signed our first lease. This demonstrates there is a huge demand, and we need to keep meeting it."

"Now, we actually have a waiting list for the residential units, which shows there really is a tremendous demand for this kind of high quality, reasonably priced property," Weinstein added. "The success of the project has really encouraged us to continue working to keep meeting the tremendous demand there is for sustainable development downtown."

More Units on the Horizon
Located next to the Tessier Building on Lafayette Street between Florida Street and Laurel Street, is the site of the next project for Dyke Nelson and DNA Workshop. The Lafayette House, a four-story, 16-unit condominium will feature four single-bedroom units per floor at just over 600 square feet per unit.

The property will feature a courtyard surrounding the building and balconies that take advantage of the view. Complete with hardwood floors, solid surface counter tops, gas ranges and valet parking, this property is located in the heart of downtown on Lafayette Street .

Transparent materials will be used on the project to allow in natural light and to take advantage of the great views of the Mississippi River. Construction is projected to start this summer with intial residents moving in by fall of 2013.

Renderings of the planned Lafayette House (below)

Luckily, Nelson and Weinstein are not the only ones working to meet the growing demand for high quality, affordable housing downtown.

Norman Chenevert and Helena and Kevin Cunningham are the owners/ developers behind the new property at 438 Main St., which will be completed later this fall. The building formerly known as the Brown building is located on Main and 4th Streets, just across from St. Joseph's Cathedral in Downtown Baton Rouge.

This 22-unit apartment building will feature one and two bedroom units between 500-900 square feet. One of the most unique aspects of the project is that it will include a mixture of affordable and market-rate units ranging from $300 to $1,100.

This mixed-income development has created a lot of excitement. Despite the fact that the project is still several months from completion, they already have a significant waiting list.

Chris Nichols, Chairwoman of the Downtown Development District and owner of the newly renovated dormitories at Drehr Hall, has also experienced the overwhelming demand for downtown living opportunities.

"As soon as we opened, they filled up," Nichols said. "It's exciting. It speaks to the tremendous demand there is for more and more residential development downtown."

Located in the heart of one of downtown's most beloved neighborhoods, Beauregard Town, Drehr Hall was originally constructed in the 1930's as a dormitory for nurses serving the Baton Rouge General Hospital. Today it features 18 units with gorgeous tall ceilings, hard wood floors and large rooms. Residents share bathrooms, a community kitchen, living area and laundry facilities for the incredibly low rate of $435/month, which includes electricity, internet, water, and sewage.

Nichols believes the increasing demand for urban living has been driven by a growing awareness about the many unique assets that Downtown has to offer.

"Throughout the downturn in the national economy, downtowns all over the county have fared much better than the suburbs," Nichols said. "And for once, we are moving with the national trend. People realize that quality of life is much more important than they ever thought-not having to spend hours on the freeway, for example, is one of the best benefits of living and working Downtown."

Downtown Baton Rouge is buzzing with new residents and new housing opportunities! To learn more about any of the properties featured in this article, or other options for living Downtown, please contact the DDD at (225) 389-5520 or visit our website

For a full listing of upcoming events, visit our website.

227 Florida St.  |  Baton Rouge, LA 70801  |  (225) 389-5520 Office (225) 389-5523 Fax  |  8:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F

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