New Orleans-The Domain Cos. L.L.C. has started construction on Gold Seal Lofts, a $7 million conversion of the former Gold Seal Creamery plant into 31 units of mixed-income housing. The creamery operated at the site from about 1920 to 1986, manufacturing a variety of dairy products, including its well-known Creole cream cheese.
The existing structure was built in 1954 and employed over 100 workers at its peak, but has been vacant since 2005. Domain bought it in 2008 for $650,000. Woodward Design + Build of New Orleans is the general contractor for the redevelopment project, with Verges Rome Architects of New Orleans as the project architect.
These days, the building is within BioDistrict New Orleans, a 2.4 square-mile state-enabled economic development district (with taxing and bonding authority) that was created by Louisiana in 2005 and charged with growing the biosciences sector of the New Orleans economy. Domain anticipates that the area will be a growth spot for multifamily because of the job-creating potential of biosciences and a proximity to Tulane University. Gold Seal is Domain's fifth major project in the Tulane Corridor and Biosciences Corridor, bringing its total investment in the area to over $130 million, including over 500 mixed-income apartments and over 20,000 square feet of retail.
"Redevelopment projects like Gold Seal are challenging in any environment because they require multiple layers of financing and strong public support," Matt Schwartz, principal and co-founder of the Domain, tells MHN. "Fortunately, the Mid-City area where Gold Seal is located and the entire Biosciences Corridor have been identified as priorities by the city, state and federal governments."
That helped make the redevelopment's complex financing a reality. Domain assembled a financing package that tapped eight different sources of finance, including a $3 million construction loan from Capital One; a $1 million permanent loan from Capital One; LHFA housing tax credits syndicated by Raymond James Financial that generate nearly $4 million in equity; $1.8 million of Community Development Block Grant Funds from the Louisiana Office of Community Development; Go Zone Bonus Depreciation; Federal and State Solar Energy Tax Credits; and a Restoration Tax Abatement from the city of New Orleans. In addition to providing the debt financing, Capital One also purchased all of the housing tax credits generated by the project.
The project includes a number of green elements. Design features include energy-star lighting and appliances, water-conserving appliances and fixtures, and high-efficiency HVAC systems. The project also incorporates features such as generating energy from photovoltaic panels on the building's roof, and landscaping that reduces water consumption.
Domain will incorporate four contiguous vacant lots into the development to create a community garden for Gold Seal residents' use. Nola Green Roots, a local nonprofit with which the developer has previously partnered with, will design and operate the Gold Seal garden. "Gold Seal may be the greenest mixed-income multifamily development ever built in Louisiana," asserts Schwartz.