Veteran Lafayette law firm Allen & Gooch, which employs 24 attorneys and a total staff of 100, is pulling up stakes from its location downtown on St. John Street to be one of the tenants at a new 63,000-square-foot commercial building at the intersection of Kaliste Saloom Road and Camellia Boulevard. And a number of other companies are also expanding or consolidating operations to move into the five-story River Ranch business center spearheaded by developer Robert Daigle.
"For us, it's strictly an issue of space, and our firm has grown quite rapidly and diversified over the last several years, so it's the value of developing downtown versus the values sustained at River Ranch," says firm partner Clay Allen. "There are parts of the business community that seem to be relocating to where the residential expansion is in Lafayette."
Allen & Gooch's move, slated for May 2007, is the third high-profile defection from downtown in recent years, following the Onebane Law Firm's move to Camellia Boulevard and The Daily Advertiser's relocation to Bertrand Drive.
"We don't want to lose anyone from the downtown, but we understand that's going to happen sometimes," says Brett Mellington, manager of downtown business development services. "There's ebb and flow in any place you go. I don't see any trends [of downtown outmigration]. Hopefully we've got some things that we're working on that will continue to improve downtown, like the two hotels in the works, and we've just completed a downtown residential survey that's generating a lot of interest."
The Allen & Gooch downtown departure is part of a ripple effect created by the new River Ranch commercial building. Van Eaton & Romero was the first tenant to sign up and will be vacating its South College Road headquarters of 17 years. Van Eaton CEO Bill BacquÃ© says the firm was already planning on constructing new headquarters in River Ranch but opted to rent instead after crunching the numbers. "The cost of building vs. per-square-foot cost of being a tenant was roughly about equal," he says. "Very expensive, but equal. And we weren't owners [on South College] either; we've been tenants. We decided that the Kaliste Saloom/Camellia location was superior because of its visibility."
IberiaBank took the unusual step of buying naming rights to the building, despite already having a branch under construction in River Ranch. IberiaBank Lafayette President Pete Yuan says the firm will occupy the first floor of the new building and use it to consolidate its local mortgage banking operations. "Given our strong presence in that corridor, we felt like having the naming rights in that general vicinity was important," says Yuan. He points out that the move isn't just about River Ranch for IberiaBank but part of the company's overall business plan. "We just opened up a new branch in Broussard, too, so we're always looking for opportunities throughout the greater Lafayette region."
The fourth tenant, accounting firm Darnall, Sikes, Gardes & Frederick, is leasing all of the building's remaining space, according to Daigle. ' Scott Jordan
Given the option, no one would want to live in a FEMA trailer ' which is why the Louisiana Recovery Authority architecture team has created an alternative that has residents and rebuilding advocates buzzing. Lafayette architect Steve Oubre and Miami urban designer Andres Duany were recently sketching cottages to replace devastated housing in Vermilion and Iberia Parish, when New Orleans native Mark Spangenberg showed up with a new product. His structural insulated panel is made of 6 inches of thick foam laminated on both faces with a concrete-like version of sheetrock. Lightweight and waterproof, it was perfect for Duany's vision. "He wanted to design a house that can drown," Oubre says, "and after the storm subsides, you can wash it out with a hose."
Duany laid out the floor plan while Oubre came up with the exterior elevations. "It was my job to make it very Louisiana," Oubre says. The result is a 770-square-foot prefab permanent cottage, which can be built for $70,000, the same price the federal government is paying for 23-foot long temporary FEMA travel trailers. Dubbed the "Katrina Cottage," the first prototype was exhibited March 23 in St. Bernard Parish. There are 10 versions of the cottage, with different architectural styles; they can be enlarged to become a permanent residence. Full-size kitchens and baths, a distinct improvement over the miniature refrigerators and half-baths of the trailers, are some of the benefits. Vernacular architecture is another. "There's no reason not to have a beautiful Louisiana cottage," says Oubre. ' Mary Tutwiler
A TURN FOR THE WORSE
Last week, U.S. Attorney Donald Washington confirmed more than two years of widespread speculation about a federal investigation into a Lafayette cardiologist's medical practice by announcing a 94-count indictment of health care fraud and one count of criminal forfeiture against Dr. Mehmood M. Patel.
Patel, 60, is already facing a multitude of malpractice lawsuits claiming he performed unnecessary medical procedures ' several hundred former patients have civil claims against him. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in February for allegedly executing a scheme to defraud both federal health care benefit programs and private insurers from February 2001 to January 2004 by performing medically unwarranted procedures on 94 patients.
The indictment alleges the doctor performed unnecessary angioplasty and placed stents in arteries of patients who didn't need them; it also claims he knew some of the procedures would cause blockages in the affected coronary arteries that resulted in subsequent medical intervention for which he also received reimbursement.
According to The Advocate, the investigation began through both an informant and an alert from inspectors with the U.S. Health and Human Services, which monitors abnormal billing and works to identify suspect procedure patterns.
Patel, who practiced at both Lafayette General Medical Center and Our Lady of Lourdes during the time period cited in the indictments, operates Acadiana Cardiology at 401 St. Julien Ave. near Lourdes. Patel no longer has privileges at either hospital, but his office says he is still practicing (he's restricted from performing any heart surgeries) and referred questions to his attorney, Mike Small of Alexandria.
Small could not be reached for comment by press time Monday.
The criminal forfeiture indictment is seeking to seize the $2.5 million Patel received as a result of the unnecessary procedures alleged in the indictment. A conviction could put Patel in federal prison for up to 20 years. ' Leslie Turk
Type "Hurricane Katrina" into the eBay search engine, and you'll be presented with 556 items for sale. There's a dollar bill that survived the storm, complete with "water marks," going for a "Buy It Now" price of $2,900. There's also bottled floodwater going for a buck, a ceramic insulator found in a pile of debris that can be shipped for only $6 and even special keepsake Christmas ornaments for $3 a piece. Not to be outdone, Hurricane Rita lists 40 items, including a hammer that made it through the chaos ' there was one bidder chasing it for $13.25, including shipping and handling. ' Jeremy Alford
It may cost you a few bucks to get into certain areas of Plaquemines Parish these days, especially the locales devastated by Katrina. The sheriff's office there has been charging a $10 processing fee to visitors and others for an identification badge. Two weeks ago, the state attorney general's office ruled there isn't a law that prohibits or endorses such a tactic and the sheriff's actions "do not yet appear to rise to the level of malfeasance in office." Col. Charles Guey of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office says the decision was made to keep an eye on looters and other troublemakers using the wasteland for cover. "This just gives us access control," he says. ' JA
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, December 11, 2013
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.