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NEW ORLEANS — St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar will break ground February 1 on a $172 million redevelopment of the historic C.J. Peete public housing property, located in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The development team includes St. Louis-based KAI Design & Build, the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative. When finished, the 550,000-square-foot property will include 410 garden and townhome units, a 40-unit apartment building and a separate apartment building housing 10 units. Delivery is expected in January 2011.

The C.J. Peete redevelopment project was launched to fill the housing void left after Hurricane Katrina. “There’s a tremendous need for housing in New Orleans, particularly workforce housing,” says Vince Bennett, executive vice president of McCormack Baron Salazar. “Along with the housing authority‘s three other major developments, referred to as the big four, it will create almost over half a billion dollars in development in the city.”

Redevelopment of the C.J. Peete site has been in the works since 1997, when housing authority officials demolished part of the 68-year-old property; the remainder of the building was torn down last spring. The redevelopment’s proposed design is meant to mirror the project’s historical significance. “New Orleans has a strong vernacular design tradition,” says Nate Rauh of KAI Design & Build, adding that the design team referenced Louisiana Speaks, a reference guide produced by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, when conceptualizing the development. “A great deal of attention was paid to the New Orleans pattern book.”

For Bennett, finding funding was a minor challenge — one of the original investors “wasn’t able to proceed,” he says — but state, local and national institutions, including Goldman Sachs, made sure the project proceeded as scheduled. The fact that this project got off the ground is a testament to the New Orleans economy, which hasn’t been as affected by the recession as the rest of the county. In addition to the housing authority’s proposed projects, there are a number of smaller housing developments planned. “There’s actually growth occurring in the economy,” Bennett says. “2009 will result in a big year for New Orleans in terms of construction jobs and economic impact.”

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