Biz New Orleans October 2021

Page 1


The Hits Keep Comin’ Tales from a battered restaurant industry P. 48

Making Over a St. Claude Gem

Boutique real estate broker Urban Vision’s new digs has stories to tell P. 56

RentCheck is Cashing In High-tech solution to rental disputes raises millions P. 60

(left to right) Anne Comarda, 2021 President of NOMAR; David Hecht, Founder and Principal, Formwork Design and Development; Carly Plotkin, Commercial Advisor, Stirling Properties













October VOLUME 08 ISSUE 01






HEALTHCARE................. 26

What are some things you can do now to help protect against memory loss/dementia?

EDUCATION . . ................... 28

IN THE BIZ DINING............................. 16

Veterans of the pre- and postKatrina educational landscape, three current leaders share their thoughts on the similarities and differences, and where we need to go from here.

Expert advice for companies looking at succession plans right now

TOURISM......................... 18

GUEST. . ............................. 34

SPORTS .......................... 20

Saints have just two “home” games before Halloween

ENTREPRENEUR........... 22

Tips to help entrepreneurs create a positive workplace culture

WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?........................................ 60

RentCheck’s high-tech solution to security deposit disputes captures millions from investors

LAW................................... 32

The city’s most luxurious new hotel offering is now a reality. Tourism remains a moving target.

GREAT WORKSPACES . . ........................................................... 56

Growth, collaboration and tech savvy define St. Claude Avenue-based real estate broker Urban Vision’s trajectory

In conversations with some fellow Realtors, I uncovered how population trends favor our industry for the foreseeable future and discovered that Realtors are many times the quiet leaders in our community.

ON THE JOB............................................................................... 64


10 Top Real Estate Influencers Industry movers and shakers in both residential and commercial sectors weigh in on their biggest challenges and greatest hopes for the next year


The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ Already beaten down from 18 months of shutdowns, mandates, staffing and supply issues, Hurricane Ida is just the latest hit to Louisiana’s restaurant industry, but optimism still endures.

A rarity for its industry, commercial landscape maintenance company Greenscape Concepts is a woman-owned and woman-run business that’s helping to beautify New Orleans.

ON THE COVER (left to right) Anne Comarda, 2021 President of NOMAR; David Hecht, Founder and Principal, Formwork Design and Development; Carly Plotkin, Commercial Advisor, Stirling Properties photo by Greg Miles




Time Out Publisher Todd Matherne REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG and playing a game and something would go wrong (maybe

someone would get too close to tagging or capturing you) or some distraction would present itself (likely mom calling you) and all you had to do was yell “Time out!” and it was universally understood that the game was now on pause until whatever distractions were sorted out? Basically, we were smart enough in childhood to develop rules against having to deal with more than one thing at a time. I would like to reinstate those rules now. Anyone with me? Just as we were all deep in the midst of pandemic fatigue, here comes a Category 4 hurricane. Like every other business out there, we’ve pivoted so many times we’re dizzy. This issue of Biz, which went to press in mid-September, was definitely one of the most difficult of my career. Not only were we merely halfway into the issue when the hurricane hit, Ida also happened to strike the same weekend my family and I were scheduled to move into our new house, forcing us to unload everything we owned into the middle of an empty house and immediately evacuate, not knowing what would happen to the biggest investment we’ll ever make before we were even able to spend a night within its walls. Oh yeah, and I’m seven months pregnant. Unfortunately, our state is filled with stories far more hectic and harrowing than mine, and the losses have been so great it’s hard to take it all in. However, there are always bright spots. There are always opportunities in any situation, and after speaking with many restaurant owners for one of our features this month and hearing their determination to be optimistic against all odds, I know we will get through this challenge, just like all the others. It seems fitting that this month is our annual real estate issue, since the real estate and construction industry is one that, although with its own challenges, has remained steady and strong throughout the pandemic — on the residential side, even breaking records. We were honored to pick the brains of some of the industry’s top voices and hear what excites them about the future. For now, fall is here, my favorite season, and that gives me hope. May it be a healthy and prosperous one for us all. Happy Reading,

EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot Associate News Editor Rich Collins Contributors Ashley McLellan, Chris Price, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Melanie Warner Spencer, Robert K.H. Stevens, Poppy Tooker, Keith Twitchell ADVERTISING Sales Manager Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Senior Account Executive Brennan Manale (504) 830-7298 Senior Account Executive Jessica Jaycox (504) 830-7255 RENAISSANCE PUBLISHING MARKETING Coordinator Abbie Dugruise PRODUCTION Designers Rosa Balaguer, Meghan Rooney CIRCULATION Subscriptions Jessica Armand Distribution John Holzer ADMINISTRATION Office Manager Mallary Wolfe Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne For subscriptions, call (504) 830-7231

2021 Gold Magazine Design Gold Best Explanatory Journalism Gold Feature Design Silver Best Feature Bronze Best Use of Multimedia 2020 Silver Best Recurring Feature 2019 Gold Best Recurring Feature Gold Best Explanatory Journalism 2018 Gold Most Improved Publication Silver Best Recurring Feature 2017 Silver Best Recurring Feature Bronze Best Daily Email 2016 Bronze Best Feature Layout

110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123 • Metairie, LA 70005 • (504) 828-1380

Kimberley Singletary, Managing Editor




Biz New Orleans is published monthly by Renaissance Publishing, LLC, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005; (504) 828-1380. Subscription rate: one year $24.95, two year $39.95, three year $49.95—foreign rates vary call for pricing. Postage paid at Metairie, LA, and additional mailing entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biz New Orleans, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005. Copyright 2021 Biz New Orleans. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. The trademark Biz New Orleans is registered. Biz New Orleans is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photos and artwork, even if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. The opinions expressed in Biz New Orleans are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine or owner.




are safe and back up and running after Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on our region and highlighted our delicate infrastructure. We can no longer allow for aboveground power lines. Yes, it has been discussed in the past and there have been many reasons why we have to live with raised power lines, but with every problem there is a solution, and now is the time for solutions. After the storm, I drove along major roadways in stretches of areas with no businesses or subdivisions and saw downed power lines that could have easily been buried in roadway servitudes. The next time you drive the Pontchartrain Expressway from Downtown to the lakefront, look to your right at the railroad tracks. They have yards of servitudes, and yet we have above-ground power lines. Sure, I know in some areas we have to live with what is there, but not everywhere. In four days after Ida, Entergy showed its capabilities and surveyed the damages, made assessments and formed a plan to power up our region. I am sure in 30 days they can survey the lines, find areas that have large servitudes and create a plan to bury the lines. You can start with Airline Highway from Kenner to Laplace. Entergy, it’s time to “Bury the Line.”







October 14 2-7:30 PM Mount Carmel Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies.

Todd Matherne




Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager

(504) 830-7252

Brennan Manale Senior Account Executive

(504) 830-7298

Jessica Jaycox

Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7255







It is important to consider how you will handle wage and hour issues, attendance, safety and business closures. Your employees may not be able to return to work immediately after your business is ready to reopen, so having a plan in place for those contingencies is important to your legal requirements and the retention of your staff. Jacob Dufour, director of HR operations at HR Nola, speaking to BizNewOrleans. com about its efforts to assist businesses with special needs following the hurricane


Episode 70

JEDCO CEO Discusses Hurricane’s Impact on Jefferson Parish Businesses Since Aug. 29, JEDCO has been providing resources and information to help the Jefferson Parish business community recover from Hurricane Ida. The organization’s CEO, Jerry Bologna, is also president and CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission.

Episode 69

COVID-19 Legal Questions Labor and employment attorney Michelle D. Craig of Transcendent Law Firm shares the top questions and concerns she’s hearing from local nonprofits, schools and businesses when it comes to vaccinations and masks.

WE ASKED, YOU ANSWERED reached out to local businesses to ask how they were affected by Hurricane Ida “We had a few media interviews lined up last week for Habitat that were about topics other than Ida. But now, because NOAHH (New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity) is a leader in rebuilding and recovery based on its work following Hurricane Katrina, we are able to provide our valuable expertise to individuals and the media.” — Ellie Rand of Ellie Rand PR (ERPR), speaking to about her boutique public relations firm’s work to help clients like Habitat for Humanity pivot their messaging in the wake of Hurrricane Ida. Last year the firm opened a second office on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which provided ERPR with a safe base of operations during the hurricane and its aftermath.




THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS TALKING ON BIZNEWORLEANS.COM Catch all the latest news, PLUS original reporting, people on the move, videos, weekly podcast and blogs, digital editions of the magazines and daily Morning Biz and afternoon newsletters. If it’s important to business in Southeast Louisiana, it's at

Episode 68

Nonprofit Helps Local Small Businesses ‘Go Beyond’ Survival Go.Be. — formerly known as the nonprofit Good Work Network — Executive Director Hermione Malone shares details on a newly unveiled fund to supply grants of up to $4,000 to small businesses.






In The Biz



DINING The city’s most luxurious new hotel offering is now a reality.

TOURISM Tourism remains a moving


SPORTS The Saints have just two “home” games before Halloween.

ENTREPRENEUR Tips to help entrepreneurs create a positive workplace culture


A New Season For New Orleans The city’s most luxurious new hotel offering is now a reality. BY P OP PY TO O KE R




cities received a grand gift on Aug. 17, when the new Four Seasons Hotel officially opened on Canal Street. The latest of 188 properties located in 47 different countries, the New Orleans Four Seasons is situated in the historic International Trade Mart, constructed in 1968 to honor the city’s 250th anniversary. The $530 million renovation retained many details of the original design, including the iconic shape, which honors the four points of the compass, and the lobby’s stately green marble pillars and escalators. Upon entering, visitors are sure to be dazzled by the Chandelier Bar. The show stopping, namesake chandelier is actually an art installation comprised of 15,000 glimmering Bohemian crystals. The bar’s menu features classic New Orleans cocktails and an astounding selection of champagnes by the bottle and glass. When it comes to bar snacks, the choices are as lofty as the crystal chandelier itself, with options like caviar service accompanied by heirloom milled cornmeal hot cakes and locally produced fois gras. Chef Alon Shaya was the first New Orleans chef onboard at the new property, acting as chef/partner of both the Chandelier Bar and the Miss River restaurant, also situated on the ground level. Miss River offers a grand dining experience with food inspired by the canon of Creole cuisine prepared with the finest local ingredients. Signature dishes like whole buttermilk fried chicken are carved on a “food stage” as the sommelier station invites guests to linger while selecting wines to pair with their meal. Shaya’s credentials include a lot of hotel centric experience, from his early days at Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to the national acclaim he received as opening chef de cuisine at Dominica, a Fairmont Hotel restaurant. During his time there, Food and Wine magazine named Dominica one of the nation’s best restaurants and Shaya received his first James Beard nomination. Under the Pomegranate Hospitality umbrella, Shaya’s prior restaurants include the Israeli themed Saba and Safta. While Saba is a stand-alone operation in Uptown New Orleans, Safta placed Shaya back in the hotel arena. Located in Denver’s Source Hotel in the trendy River North Art District, Safta is a leased property, different from the chef/partner arrangement at the Four Seasons.

“Partnering with a luxury brand like the Four Seasons, takes our business to a whole new level allowing me to work with amazing people I look up to,” said Shaya. That sentiment is mirrored by the Four Seasons’ other local chef/partner, Donald Link, a fierce independent who has turned down countless previous offers. “Link Restaurant Group owns all of our other restaurant properties and I have always been reluctant to turn over control,” said Link, “but I have such respect for the brand and the people. We share the same goals and vision. Link’s new restaurant — located on the hotel’s fifth floor — boasts an incomparable view of the Mississippi with cuisine “rooted in classic French while including the Louisiana elements we’re known for, along with great steaks and an oyster bar,” he said. Long-time friend Jimmy Buffett played a role in selecting the restaurant’s name when he phoned last summer while Link was in Paris. “Jimmy said, ‘How about Chemin a la Mer?’” a French phrase which translates to “Path to the Sea,” Link recalled. At the time, Link was standing on the Rue de Chemin Vert, adding to the sense of kismet. Both Shaya and Link are working closely with veteran Four Seasons Executive Chef Nicholas Owen. Owen brings almost 15 years of experience with the brand, with previous assignments in Kyoto, Seoul and Singapore. Owen oversees the hiring, training and management of the entire food and beverage operation, including both Shaya’s and Link’s restaurants. He is also responsible for hotel catering and room service. “Four Seasons’ room service is where high tech and old school meet,” Owen said. “Guests may use our chat system or order directly from their iPad,” but upon delivery, the amenities of white linen and polished cloches are old school all the way. In need of a little pampered TLC? The New Orleans Four Seasons offers the pinnacle of high touch luxury right here at home. n

Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.


A native New Orleanian, Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.





Confidence in Uncertainty Tourism remains a moving target. BY J E NNIF E R G IB SO N SCHE CT ER




Quarter Festivals Inc. When I interviewed her in March about the rescheduled festival, then set for October, we both felt some trepidation. We live in a superstitious place, and speaking of the future almost felt like tempting fate. That interview was before the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus became widespread, infection rates increased, and countless other festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, were canceled. So, the trick of writing about the future, which at its core is filled with ego, has become especially precarious. No one knows what tomorrow brings, but magazine publishers usually get pretty close. That’s why, even with the challenges of COVID-19 cancellations and the risk of storms, I am confident in my uncertainty. Tourists will come back to New Orleans. They have been returning, and will continue to do so. The Carnival cruise ships will again be filled with travelers who drove and flew into the city to set sail. I can write this with confidence from years of covering tourism in our town, and most especially, from the feedback I heard when my family was evacuated from Hurricane Ida. We first stayed at a hotel in Birmingham, Alabama for a week. The hotel employees, the guests in the lobby at breakfast, and even the staff at Good People Brewing Company all had wonderful things to share about visiting New Orleans. From behind their masks, you could see the smile in their eyes as they told stories of coming to New Orleans for work or vacation — conferences, bachelor parties, anniversaries — every tale of the Crescent City was filled with a desire to return. Our second week of evacuation in Atlanta, with a friend and her family, brought more of the same. The people we met all love coming to New Orleans. They even refrained from boasting about their football team and complimented us about ours. In our two weeks away from home, no one had a bad thing to say about New Orleans. I’m going to keep writing about events, even though they may be canceled, because the desire to attend them has not diminished. The culture that shapes our days draws people like no other American city. Storms will come, the power will go out, public health will require changes, and through it all New Orleans will welcome people with open arms. n


Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on


For those lucky enough to be involved, we get to travel into the future. Each issue is prepared weeks and months in advance and the best in the Biz do it with timely, nearly psychic powers. In last month’s issue, when I wrote about the return of the Carnival Glory cruise ship to the Port of New Orleans, it was to herald the restart of an important component of tourism in our region. Now, after Hurricane Ida paid her visit, the Carnival Glory is instead serving as a temporary home to first-responders and other workers who are helping to restore power and clean up the storm’s aftermath. “While we want to provide the city of New Orleans with an economic boost by restarting guest operations, we want to first provide this critical housing support to address emergency needs and to get power restored to the region,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a statement. This deal with the city of New Orleans and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is yet another link between Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Katrina, which share an anniversary 16 years apart. After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA also worked with Carnival Cruise Line to provide ships as temporary housing in New Orleans. This time, gratefully, the Carnival Glory should be underway for Caribbean vacations by the time you read this. Covering tourism in New Orleans used to be somewhat predictable. We have festival season, football season, the holiday season, and that little shindig called Mardi Gras. The ebbs and flows of the Mississippi River mirror the waxing and waning of tourists in town. The crowds, the hotel and restaurant reservations, the lines at the airport, and the tax revenue generated by those visitors were things that could be anticipated. Never guaranteed, especially during hurricane season, but reasonably assumed. Things are different now. The potential of drastic change that has always been linked to a chance of hurricanes now applies to every day of the year. The ability to time travel and write about festivals, or even the New Orleans Saints, has become more challenging during the global pandemic of COVID-19. In August, when I heard that French Quarter Festival would again be canceled this year, my first thought was of Emily Madero, the executive director of French




Domecoming, Again Saints have just two “home” games before Halloween. BY C HR I S PR ICE




of town for the majority of the beginning of the season, lessening congestion on the region’s highways and surface streets, will assist the recovery. Saints fans, no doubt, have been tuning in to games on television and radio early in the season, but having the team back in New Orleans and being able to cheer on the team in person will lift the spirits of those doggedly working on ongoing repairs and renovations. The return to the Superdome will be good for the Saints, too. Star receiver Michael Thomas will miss at least the first five games of the season after he started the year on the physically unable to perform list due to a lingering ankle injury from Week 1 of the 2020 season. He’ll likely be back for the Seattle game on Oct. 25 or the Bucs game on Oct. 31. His return will give the Saints a huge boost on offense. Thomas missed more than half of the 2020 season, but in five years as a pro, he has almost 6,000 receiving yards and more than 30 touchdowns. Additionally, starting defensive tackle David Onyemata will be allowed to return for the Tampa game after serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. In the preseason, I predicted the Saints will hover around .500 through Week 15 and close the season with a three-game win streak to finish 10-7 overall and second in the NFC South with a 4-2 division record. Through everything the region has faced, and assuming there are no key injuries, I stick with that assessment. I think the NFC South will be a two-horse race between Tampa and New Orleans. If the Saints can post a winning regular season record, they should be on rather solid footing for a wild card berth and fifth-straight return for the postseason. Of course, once they’re in the postseason, anything can happen. Laissez les bons temps rouler! n


Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at


reached Halloween, the NFL regular season was halfway complete. But not this year. With a 17-game season introduced in 2021 and a later opening day than normal — Sept. 12 ­— this season will push well into January 2022. That anomaly is affecting the entire NFL, but the season is hitting a bit different in New Orleans. The Saints’ 2021 schedule allowed for only three games in September, including the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. Hurricane Ida, of course, caused the team to relocate to the Dallas area for the beginning of the season. They had to play their first “home” game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, followed by road trips to Carolina and New England. Their f irst true home game in the Superdome is Oct. 3, when they host the New York Giants. They’ll go on the road to play the Washington Football Team in D.C., have a Week 6 bye, and then head to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seahawks in Seattle on Oct. 25. That means the Saints won’t play their second game of the 2021 season in the Caesar’s Superdome until Halloween, when they face division rival and the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The following week, they’ll welcome the Atlanta Falcons. Then for the next eight weeks, they’ll alternate two weeks on the road and two weeks at home until they travel to Atlanta for the final regular season game of the season. As the greater New Orleans and New York City regions were affected by Hurricane Ida (more people were killed by the storm in the northeast than the gulf coast), expect the Saints home opener against the Giants to receive a ton of national media coverage. The scene may not be as intense as the Saints’ original 2006 “Domecoming” against the Falcons — the year after the 2005 season, when the team played all their home games in New York, Baton Rouge and San Antonio. But, after COVID-19 safety protocols limited capacity at Saints games in 2020, the Giants game will be one of the first opportunities for a large audience to come together and put voice to the region’s resiliency. Hurricane Ida was one of the top five strongest storms to make landfall in the United States. It was a physically punishing storm that caused widespread power outages in the state. Southeastern Louisiana is still recovering from Ida’s impact. Having the team play out




Don’t Be A Dilbert Business Tips to help entrepreneurs create a positive workplace culture BY KEI T H TWITCHE LL




popular comic strips in America because so many people can identify with its hilariously exaggerated depiction of the prototypical dysfunctional workplace. The strip is preposterous, of course. No boss is as utterly clueless, mean and self-serving as the unnamed “Pointy-Haired Boss.” No employee could keep his job while being as exclusively devoted to goofing off as Wally. And no company has an evil cat running its HR department (I think). Yet the strip would not be successful if it was completely disconnected from reality. There are far too many workplaces where the culture trends uncomfortably close to the “Dilbert” environment. While the strip depicts a corporate setting, every business has its own workplace culture — for better or for worse. Good workplaces enhance productivity, support staff members, and tend to be home to successful businesses. Bad workplaces breed discontent, high (and expensive) employee turnover, dishonesty and deceit, and ultimately, an increased likelihood of failure. (Plus the occasional comic strip.) Entrepreneurs set the tone and culture of their businesses from the moment they hire their first employee. It is imperative to be mindful of this not just at the launch of the enterprise, but at every step of the way forward. So here are a few key aspects to keeping your workplace from becoming the next “Dilbert”. Accountability in every aspect of operations. This starts with leading by example. The boss has to work as long and as hard as everyone else. Employees who perform well deserve to be rewarded. Employees who underperform or cause problems must be spoken to professionally and respectfully. Their shortcomings should be laid out and discussed, and a mutually agreed-upon corrective course should be set. Employees who still do not measure simply must be let go, or they will become a corrosive influence on the rest of the staff. Playing favorites, not applying accountability fairly and equally throughout the staff, is a recipe for disaster. Teamwork should be a constant. This goes beyond achieving goals and solving problems together. Employees should feel like they matter, which means supporting their physical, mental, emotional, social and even spiritual well-being. While roles and responsibilities must be clearly

defined, opportunities for professional growth should be a constant. Leadership should not only listen, but actively seek employee input. Successes should be shared, failures collectively owned and addressed from a “what can we learn” perspective. Teams of course have leaders, the owner(s) and/or senior management; but if everyone in the workplace feels like they have a stake in the business, that business is much more likely to succeed. Communication is inherent in both of the above, but still warrants its own focus. While not every company secret, or challenge, or operational detail must be communicated, keeping people in the loop keeps them from speculating about the loop. Communication must be respectful, and as positive as possible. A little humor is a good thing, but it absolutely must be appropriate. Language is part of any culture; the language used in the workplace plays a substantial role in creating the culture of that workplace. Understanding the cultural language of employees is equally important for establishing and maintaining good lines of communication. Meetings should be focused, productive, conducted within the stated timeframe, and never convened unnecessarily. Active participation from all involved should be encourage. Good meetings are necessary and useful; bad meetings undermine morale and productivity. There’s a reason so many “Dilbert” strips portray meetings. Laying these things out may seem like displaying a keen grasp of the obvious, but it’s equally obvious that workplace dysfunction is real and all too common. Company leadership must be committed to creating a positive, productive working environment from the beginning, and to monitoring the results constantly. A good workplace does not happen by accident; a bad workplace is an accident — or comic strip — waiting to happen. n


Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.





HEALTHCARE What are some things you can do now to help protect against memory loss/dementia?

EDUCATION Veterans of the pre- and postKatrina educational landscape share their thoughts on the similarities and differences

LAW Expert advice for companies looking at succession plans right now

GUEST How population trends favor our industry and Realtors can be quiet leaders in our community


Mark Francis

Beth C. Arredondo, Ph.D., ABPP-CN

Customer Experience Schonberg Care

Clinical Neuropsychologist St. Tammany Health System | Ochsner Health Good living is good for the brain. Building brain-healthy habits in young adulthood or middle age prolongs cognitive functioning and independence long into older adulthood. Physical exercise is vitally important. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g., quick walking, cutting the grass, heavy cleaning) per week, but any movement is better than none. Eating a heart-healthy diet also improves brain health. Choose green leafy vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, with sweets as an occasional treat. Staying cognitively active promotes brain health and can be accomplished just as well by participating in hobbies, learning new skills and engaging in fun activities such as following a particular brain exercise program. Keep up with family, friends and social engagements in person or virtually to keep your brain active. Finally, maintain these healthy habits by following a regular sleep schedule and managing stress with relaxation training or mindfulness meditation.



At Louisiana’s largest family-owned, independent, assisted living and memory care provider, each memory care engagement is based on strategic and personal commitment to the individual. For example, we might do one round of trivia with several different outcomes based on the individual or audience, or we might play bingo five different ways for five different people. We also work to ensure that every resident is mentally stimulated with activities like lectures, educational offerings, computer assistance and Zoom. technology.

What are some things you can do now to help protect against memory loss/ dementia?


Scott Lovitt, PharmD. Owner Audubon Care Homes Break a sweat! Several studies show that exercise may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the brain. Going for a walk, riding a bike, gardening and taking the stairs are all great ways to stay active! Exercising your mind is another great way to benefit your brain in the long term. Challenging yourself with a puzzle, learning a new language and playing brain game apps like Elevate and Luminosity are all excellent ways to keep your brain sharp.

Rebecca Jeffries

Amanda Gisclair

Executive Director The Blake at Colonial Club

Sales Director Inspired Living of Kenner

First, practice moderation in all things. Excessive alcohol use and obesity are major risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline. Second and third, exercising your body and your brain. Just as our brains benefit from educational exercise, they benefit from physical exercise. Studies show that active individuals are less likely to experience dementia. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is to learn to enjoy every moment. Fearing dementia will not lessen your likelihood of getting it.

Along with physical activity and a wellbalanced diet, I’d advise to stay mentally active and socially engaged. The old saying, “use it or lose it” applies to memory and cognitive function. Working, volunteering, reading, puzzles and learning new skills are great ways to keep your brain healthy and active. Getting enough rest also reduces stress levels that have shown to contribute to dementia and memory loss. Finally, make sure to manage any chronic conditions and follow up with your primary doctor regularly.




Lessons Learned Veterans of the pre- and post-Katrina educational landscape, three current leaders share their thoughts on the similarities and differences, and where we need to go from here BY KEI T H TW ITCHE LL

W H E N H U R R I C A N E K A T R I N A H I T, N E W

Orleans public schools were considered some of the worst in the United States, with one reform effort after another doing little to improve outcomes. Katrina changed everything. Control of all but a handful of schools was taken away from the Orleans Parish School Board and turned over to a state entity, the Recovery School District. Only in 2018 did local control resume. In the interim, every single public school in New Orleans has become a charter school, an experiment unique in our nation. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to cease in-person learning in March 2020 and only at the beginning of the fall 2021 term did most welcome students back into the classrooms. Just as students returned, however, Hurricane Ida made landfall just west of the metro area. While the devastation was not on the level of Katrina — at least within the city and immediately surrounding parishes — again, the storm is affecting public education systems in crisis. . Ida’s impacts caused at least two weeks of school closures, with some systems out for much longer, and most experts consider that students are already at least one and a half years behind in their learning due to the COVID-19 complications. Where do we go from here? Can some of the lost educational ground be made up? Will lessons from Katrina help in the aftermath of Ida? “There are a lot of similarities to what it takes to return,” observed Jamar McKneely, CEO of InspireNOLA Charter Schools, operators of eight New Orleans




This time the cavalry is not coming. We all need to do this ourselves. We need to find that well of patience and humanity and work through this.” Leslie Jacobs, cofounder and chair of YouthForce

schools. “This rebound is still very stressful, but we see ourselves rebounding a lot faster than after Katrina.” McKneely, who was a teacher at Edna Karr High School when Katrina hit, cited several factors that he feels will accelerate the recovery, including stronger civic leadership and the existence of social media. “Social media is a game-changer,” he said. “We can provide updates much faster, communicate information and assurances to parents, even send pictures of the schools.” “The resources we have in place are one key difference,” agreed Sabrina Pence, CEO of FirstLine Schools, a network of five New Orleans schools. “We have robust special education, we have social workers in the schools. We know about social and emotional learning, what it means to be trauma-informed. We have much more concrete plans in place. We can support kids and families differently.” Leslie Jacobs, co-founder and chair of YouthForce, is a former Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) member who was serving on the State Board of Elementary

and Secondary Education (BESE) when Katrina hit. She noted that the New Orleans schools today are in much better condition financially and physically than they were at that time. “New Orleans laid off teachers within one week of Katrina,” Jacobs recalled. “OPSB was bankrupt at the time. After the storm, we had a $2 billion investment in new school buildings, and they did not experience much damage from Ida. After Katrina, only the river sliver and Westbank schools could open.” Jacobs added that many other Southeast Louisiana parishes had considerably more damage to their facilities from Ida than Katrina, but noted that all parishes are still paying their staffs, and even teachers who have been displaced can still find places to live within a reasonable radius of their homes. Although many districts will take longer to get back up and running than Orleans Parish, it likely will not be the full year that was lost after Katrina. However, said Jacobs, “This storm happened in the context of real fatigue.



With Ida coming on the heels of the pandemic, people are weary. Teachers and families are running on lower resiliency.” This applies nationally as well as locally. “We had an influx of talent coming into the region after Katrina, in all areas, not just education. We had millions of philanthropic dollars. This time the cavalry is not coming. We all need to do this ourselves. We need to find that well of patience and humanity and work through this.” Ida’s arrival during the COVID-19 impact also troubled McKneely. “We already had major challenges returning to school,” he said. “This accelerates the impacts of social and emotional challenges on faculty and students, and dampens the gains we were beginning to make on the learning losses.” McKneely’s analysis, based on initial assessments within his network of schools, is that students are as far as two and half years behind in their learning, with the youngest students being the most highly impacted. “The staff has been through a lot as well,” he added. “We are bringing in professional development resources for them just as soon as possible.” “The biggest lesson out of Katrina is to work with people where they are,” said Pence. “We have to understand the family situation, understand what the kids need, and approach this from a place of understanding and humanity.” While the use of remote learning became commonplace during the COVID-19 school closures, Pence is worried about falling back on it after Ida. “Remote learning is an advantage when it comes to keeping kids connected to school,” she observed, “but it’s also a place where we see a lot of inequities. Many of our families struggle with broadband access or computer access. The data is really clear that virtual learning is just not as good.” What’s evident is that there are no simple answers, no fast solutions. And, while everyone in Southeast Louisiana is thoroughly tired of the word, our region’s resiliency is once again going to be our biggest asset. “Our students are definitely resilient,” McKneely said. “They are looking forward to returning to school. It provides a sense of hope.” “After we address the immediate needs for our students, families and staff, we need a really strong push to get everyone back to school,” echoed Pence. “It returns some normalcy to life, and gets everybody focused on learning again.” “We are fundamentally resilient,” Jacobs said firmly. “Our way forward is one step at a time. After Katrina, the Orleans schools got better each year, not all at once. This is a challenging time, but we’re going to get through it. That’s what humans do.” n




We already had major challenges returning to school. [Hurricane Ida] accelerates the impacts of social and emotional challenges on faculty and students, and dampens the gains we were beginning to make on the learning losses. Jamar McKneely, CEO of InspireNOLA Charter Schools


Leslie Ehret Attorney Frilot LLC Companies must decide which roles within the business should have a succession plan. It is also not just for top-level positions, but should include positions that are crucial to the business, those for which it is difficult to find talent, and those that cannot be left vacant for long periods. Succession planning is also important to workers whose engagement would improve if they worked at a company with a clear succession plan. A good plan helps ensure business continuity and performance, but takes discipline, analytics and engagement.

What advice would you give companies looking at succession plans right now?




Javier Jalice

Erin E. Kriksciun

Edward N. George

Attorney/Founder Jalice Law Firm

Estate Planning, Administration of Trusts and Estates Stone Pigman

Partner Chaffe, McCall, L.L.P.

In evaluating succession plans right now, an organization may want to dedicate immediate resources to prepare rising employees for different contingencies that account for the fluidity of today’s business climate and the dayto-day challenges of COVID-19. Companies may consider adopting new team-oriented processes and approaches for accomplishing projects and goals. Employers and businesses may also want to implement policies and procedures related to COVID-19 that are suitable for their anticipated needs.

It’s crucial for business owners to consider how a succession plan fits in with their overall estate plan. All too frequently, children not involved in the day-today operation of a company inherit an interest in it, with little to no control or understanding of its financial health. This often leads to ugly intra-family disputes and, eventually, expensive and emotionally draining litigation. While there is no “one size fits all” solution, consider whether some children should receive assets other than an interest in the company.

A succession plan is an ongoing process that should integrate hiring practices, training opportunities, employee reviews, retention plans and clear promotion paths in order to ensure employees at all levels can step up and execute its strategic plan. Company directors must reassess goals in light of current challenges and opportunities and set an actionable vision, a broadly defined path and periodic measures to ensure the company remains on track or determine whether further change in direction, processes, or personnel may be necessary.

Greg LaCour and Dante Maraldo Attorneys Blue Williams Every succession plan is unique. That said, when developing a succession plan, we recommend that a company take the following initial actions. First, identify all the company’s governance documents and/or agreements regarding succession currently in place. Second, identify the best potential successor(s) to the ownership of the company (i.e., family members, co-owners, employees third-parties, subsidiaries, or affiliates). Third, identify the finances and timeline necessary for a smooth transition of ownership. Fourth, confirm that the correct tax structure is in place for the succession. And finally, properly document the succession plan. An experienced attorney is imperative to review, advise upon, personalize and document the succession plan. A certified public accountant will likely also be necessary to assist with valuation and tax issues. Final thought: A company may want to consider implementing an advisory board of directors, if appropriate, to ensure the smooth transition of control of the company.




In a Good Place In conversations with some fellow Realtors, I uncovered how population trends favor our industry for the foreseeable future and found that Realtors are many times the quiet leaders in our community. BY R O B E RT K. H. STE V E NS


& Real Estate Forecast Symposium this month (Oct. 19 and 20) is “Rethinking Real Estate, Adapting to the Changing Dynamic in New Orleans and Louisiana,” I suggest we not rethink too hard as we have seen a single-family residential market at demand levels not ever experienced in my lifetime, while commercially we have recently experienced a similar trend for smaller office and office warehouse properties. A colleague of mine, Doug Bernard, a broker at REMAX Alliance, shared some great thoughts with me recently relating to our current demographics. “First, the Baby Boomers who are now between the ages of 57 and 76 have hit or are reaching retirement age,” he said. “In fact, as of 2020 there are now 20 million more people over age 60 than in 2017. As such, it can be anticipated that their homes will be coming on the market, providing much needed inventory for the younger generation. As Baby Boomers become sellers, they will also become buyers, in many cases downsizing. By doing so they both relieve inventory shortages on one hand while putting pressure on supply on the other.” Another group that represents a strong buying demographic are millennials — who are currently recognized as those between the ages of 29 and 40. “Most people buy their first home in their 20s or 30s, and millennials as a generational group are now as large as the Baby Boomers were in 1984,” said Bernard. “In fact, there are currently 4.5 million more people between the ages of 30 and 39 than in 2010. This reality, coupled with Baby Boomers transition into retirement,




Robert K. H. Stevens founded The Stevens Realty Group, Inc., in August 1994. The company is headquartered in Metairie and offers brokerage — both leasing and sales — property management and consulting services on commercial and investment real estate. He is a past president of the NOMAR CID and still serves on the CID Fall Forecast and Service to the Community committees. He has been in the real estate industry since 1978 and his approach is as a fiduciary with his clients.

should result in increasing home sales well into this decade and continuing into the 2020s.” But where to settle down? Another colleague of mine, Sheldon Harris of Turner Properties, is quick to express his passion for Kenner Rivertown and New Orleans East. “Sometimes being lost in the shuffle while located on the outskirts of New Orleans provides much promise, especially if you will be actively involved with the community,” he said. “Akin to residents and city officials of Kenner and New Orleans, I see the potential for exponential growth and development in these communities. “In November 2018, my wife and I purchased a clinic building in Rivertown — Family First Medical & Wellness Clinic — which she operates as a private practice primary care clinic. The surrounding area has many underserved patients but few primary health facilities. She is honored

to provide superior medical care in her hometown of Kenner. In May 2021, we also purchased an event hall with business partners on Martin Drive in New Orleans East. We are in the process of renovating the property and will open as The Venetian Venue in January 2022. Our focus Is not only to bring a premier event space to New Orleans East, but to also engage the community through outreach programs and community events. I invested in these communities to put my fingerprints on them and be a part of rebuilding the infrastructure, attracting businesses and increasing both resident and community morale.” Another colleague, Bryan Burns, a broker at Transwestern Properties, has found his passion project on the Northshore, where in 2017 he founded a faith-based, nonprofit organization called West 30’s Redemption Company (W30RC) with the goal of serving lower-income families with good-quality

affordable housing in the West 30’s, a historic neighborhood adjacent to downtown Covington. “Demographically, the West 30’s is similar to New Orleans communities such as the 9th Ward and the 7th Ward,” explained Burns. “This 82-city block community has 350 houses, 300 vacant lots and 1,200 residents, many of whom have suffered from multigenerational poverty. Fifty-five percent of the houses are rentals and one-fourth of those are in significantly sub-standard condition. Through W30RC, Burns is on track to serve 40 lower-income families with newly built or newly renovated houses by the end of 2021. “We employ a unique, 100% debt funding approach for our houses, which range from $90,000 to $150,000 with an average size of 1,100 square feet. How is this venture funded? “Each house is supported by a faith partner church and a business partner,” said Burns. “ We’ve partnered with 18 churches, 13 community banks, 12 businesses and 25 individuals who have provided supporter loans totaling $550,000.” And then of course there’s New Orleans, the love of which inspired another colleague of mine to become a Realtor. “Why New Orleans?” is a question I have been asked many times since I moved here nearly a decade ago,” said Paige Devries, a realtor with TCK Property Marketplace. “The more interesting question is: Why have I, or anyone who moved here, decided to stay and make a life in New Orleans? “The reason I love and cherish this city is because of the community I found here. In my first year here, I met my partner, who was born and raised in the 7th Ward. His friends, neighborhood and family became my friends, neighborhood and family. This tight knit group of people helped me realize that New Orleans’ greatest attribute is not a physical thing, it is its people and the unique and unpretentious way they communicate, celebrate and mourn together.” This sense of community is not just the reason Devries stayed in this city, it is also the reason she became a Realtor. “In becoming a Realtor, I was hoping to acquire skills to help the people in my community stay in the community that they grew up in, provide information about first-time home buying and establish generational wealth. This goal motivates me and is also a way I participate and contribute to the people and place that has already given me so much.” n





EIGHTEEN MONTHS into the pandemic, we’re still seeing a residential real estate market that’s breaking records on many fronts. Interest rates remain at historic lows, but so does inventory — resulting in a marketplace where sellers are calling the shots and buyers are left scrambling to find a home and are often stuck in bidding wars. Affordable housing — already a major issue before the pandemic struck — has become even more of a critical need. On the commercial side, construction remains busy, especially in the healthcare industry, but construction on both the commercial and residential sides continues to be affected by higher supply costs and struggles to find and secure materials. If all of this wasn’t enough to contend with, the destruction and disruption of Hurricane Ida on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is expected to exacerbate both supply chain and housing inventory issues. It’s no doubt a challenging time for the construction and real estate industries, which is why we are especially grateful this year to have 10 top industry professionals share with us not only how they’re facing they’re biggest challenges right now, but what excites them most about the future. There are always bright spots to be found and opportunities to be embraced. May we continue to do both into 2022.





2020 METRO HOME SALES Pending sales increased 10.5 percent from 2019, closing 2020 at 16,268. Closed sales were up 7.1 percent to finish the year at 15,537. Total inventory of homes for sale was down 44.3%, with 2,590 active listings at the end of 2020. New listings decreased by 8.1 percent to finish 2020 at 19,697.



16,268 (+10.5%)

15,537 (+7.1%) 21,546 (+4.5%) 14,265 (+3.5%)

14,723 (+3.9%) 14.164 (+3.7%) 13,636 (+1.0%)


13,655 (+1.9%)

13,787 (+1.0%)



14,513 (+1.7%)

21,426 (-0.6%)

20,626 (+1.6%) 20,295 (-2.2%) 19,697 (-8.1%)

13,661 (+0.2%)
























70062............................................ +13.4%



70052........................................... +62.5%

70431............................................. +34.1%







70112.............................................. +18.5%

70053............................................. +11.0%

70466........................................... +58.3%

70444.......................................... +35.5%




70075............................................ +10.2%

70461........................................... + 49.4%


70053.......................................... + 45.4%

70037........................................... + 31.4%

70125.............................................+ 14.7%

70129.............................................. +10.1%



PRESIDENT CRESCENT TITLE FORMED IN 2003, Crescent Title, LLC is a full-service real estate title company handling both residential and commercial closings. With six offices across the Greater New Orleans area, and employing nearly 50 associates, it is the largest title company in the area. The company’s attorneys have helped developers create over 125 condominium regimes across the city. Crescent Title’s attorneys take pride in teaching hundreds of hours of continuing education credits to investors and real estate agents each year. What are you most excited about for the coming year? Having rebuilt after Katrina, we know that getting back can be challenging. We also know that a crisis can bring opportunities. While Ida was no Katrina, the cleanup and rebuilding following this storm will bring more people to our city along with money to help in the reconstruction. We anticipate that with continued low interest rates, the housing market will continue to be strong and robust. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? One of the major challenges to our industry is the increase in out-of-state real estate closers handling closings in Louisiana with a lack of knowledge of the unique and complex laws and obligations of the closing process. This can adversely affect the integrity of the public records. A second, and continuing challenge, involves wire fraud and the systematic attempt to cause purchasers to wire money to fraudsters.





BRYAN HODNETT DONAHUEFAVRET Contractors is a 42-year-old commercial general contractor serving the Gulf South. The company’s team of construction professionals excels at healthcare, hospitality/ mixed-use, assisted living and educational projects. Recently the firm has had a robust backlog of healthcare projects totaling over $100 million, including a new, ground-up cancer center, wellness/sports center and ICU/operating room expansions. The company has also put in place more than 700 beds of skilled nursing/assisted living in the past five years, in addition to more than 1 million square feet of healthcare facilities. What are you most excited about for the coming year? Over the years, our firm has become a distinguished general contractor in the region, and as a result we are leading more exciting new large-scale projects across the region. Some of our larger and longterm clients, particularly in healthcare, are in the process of expanding their facilities, so we’re seeing an increase in operations in that sector. Also, with the recent impacts of Hurricane Ida, we’re managing several disaster recovery projects, which gives us

an opportunity to further rebuild our communities and make them more resilient. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? Currently one of the biggest is construction material. From lead times to pricing, some of these challenges include securing lumber, managing volatile pricing, and delayed shipping of specific materials. In times like this, we have found that two things are extremely imperative: aligning yourself with clients and trade partners who are willing to achieve a project’s goals and maintaining transparent communication throughout all phases of a project. For example, our team had a recent project that built out 30 ICU beds due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The entire project team — including the owner, architect, contractor and subcontractors — pulled together to complete this project 75% faster than under normal circumstances all thanks to a solutions-oriented, collaborative process.



STACIE CARUBBA is a New Orleans-area real estate broker with six years of experience. She is partner and associate broker at Athena Real Estate, a boutique brokerage in the city. Boasting over $40 million in sales, Carubba was recently named in the top 1% of professionals in her field by Marquis’ Who’s Who in America. What are you most excited about for the coming year? I’m looking forward to expanding my role within the community during this difficult time right now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and in the midst of the pandemic. Real estate can be emotional and difficult in normal circumstances, and especially challenging in our current situation, so it’s important to me to continue to strengthen and establish deep and meaningful relationships that extend past the deal. As a local with deep roots in the community, I feel that I am more than just a real estate agent for many of my clients.





STACIE CARUBBA What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? The lack of inventory and availability of affordable housing is a huge challenge facing the industry. With interest rates at a historic low in the spring, the housing market was flooded with buyers. Coupled with changing needs and lifestyles due to COVID-19, buyer demand surpassed market supply and many listings were getting scooped up within hours of hitting the market, in most cases with multiple offers over asking price. Because of the competitive nature of the market, many properties and neighborhoods became unattainable for buyers. I think the lack of inventory will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future in the New Orleans metro area, especially since so many homes were damaged or destroyed due to Hurricane Ida as many families are displaced and looking for housing.

PROPERTY TYPE As demand for single family increased, do did pricing, climbing 8.6% in just one year. As condo/ townhouse demand flattened, pricing decreased in the same time period by 8.8%



This chart uses a rolling 12-month average for each data point.


75 70 65

56 74 Average Days on Market Single Family


Average Days on Market Condo/Townhouse

55 1-2016











KATHY LABORDE PRESIDENT GCHP (GULF COAST HOUSING PARTNERSHIP) GCHP IS A MISSION-BASED regional real estate development company based in New Orleans that focuses on the production of affordable and mixed-income communities and complementary commercial and community space. GCHP was established in 2006 when the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina exposed the lack of affordable housing options in the Gulf Coast. Since then, the company has worked with 51 partners in 13 communities to develop or preserve more than 3,600 affordable homes and over 400,000 square feet of commercial facilities in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. What are you most excited about for the coming year? We are excited about the continued advancement of our healthcare and housing work that combines affordable housing with accessible healthcare and applying lessons learned from our resiliency demonstration venture in Lockport. We have a great team, we are passionate about what we do and we are excited about expanding our work throughout the region. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? It seems that the cost to construct and insure our developments is a forever challenge! Building the multilayered capital stack required to put units on the ground can take years, and it often feels like we are chasing our tails. Simply put, we need more resources to respond to the needs of the people we serve.





AVERAGE SALES PRICE $219,400 (+5.0%)

$261,508 (+5.2%)

$209,000 (+4.6%)

96.8% (0.0%)

96.9% (+0.1%)

96.8% (-0.1%)

97.2% (+0.4%)(

97.5% (+0.3%)






$268,664 (+2.7%)

$248,582 (+3.9%) $239,314 (+2.9%)

$199,900 (+6.0%)

Home prices continued to rise in 2020 with the biggest change from 2019 to 2020 in average sales price found in Buras in Plaquemines Parish (70041) and New Orleans’ Storyville neighborhood (70112). The overall median sales price in the metro increased 7.1% in 2020 to $235,000. Sellers received, on average, 97.5 % of their original list price at sale in 2020, a year-over-year improvement of 0.3%.


$235,000 (+7.1%)

$188,625 (+3.1%)



















70041............................................ +82.6%


70036............................................ +10.3%





70456............................................ +34.1%




70114............................................. +36.6%

70426........................................... +53.8%





70031............................................ +32.8%


70427........................................... +32.8%





70031............................................ +43.3%

70036........................................... +29.9%





COMMERCIAL ADVISOR STIRLING PROPERTIES STIRLING PROPERTIES is one of the most comprehensive, full-service commercial real estate companies in the country, specializing in advisory services, brokerage, asset and property management, development and redevelopment and investments over a wide array of property types. As a commercial advisor, Carly Plotkin’s primary focus is on tenant and landlord representation, with a strong concentration on the retail and hospitality markets. She has worked with national, regional and local clients in marketing, leasing and sales capacities on projects including The Julia at St. Charles, Canal Place and The Garage and was on the team that brought new-to-market national and regional tenants like True Food Kitchen to New Orleans and Citizens Bank to Metairie. What are you most excited about for the coming year? I think we will see a renewed sense of hope and desire to support our local communities and businesses more so than ever before. Every new business opening is a mark of strength coming out of one of the biggest economic and health-related hardships in recent time. I am personally excited to be a part of a retail revitalization in the Gentilly-neighborhood along Chef Menteur Highway, as well as a grocery-anchored, ground-up development on the Northshore. Additionally, helping to represent local operators on expanding their businesses from online or commissary models to their own brick-and-mortar shops is incredibly rewarding.

What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? The continuous setbacks with COVID-related restrictions have been very challenging for all commercial businesses and storefronts. While many have been able to adapt their business model, others are still struggling. Whether a local, regional or national tenant, we as consumers need to continue to support the industry. Physical stores have evolved over the years, and will continue to do so. Our support will ensure they stay around for the long term. 42




CURTIS DOUCETTE IRIS DEVELOPMENT is active in new construction and substantial rehabilitation of mixed-income rental communities and affordable home ownership. Though delayed a few months by Hurricane Ida, the company is nearly finished with its Bywater development, which includes the construction of 70 apartments, 10 of which are permanently affordable, and 2,500 square feet of commercial space. Doucette touches every aspect of a project from deal sourcing to operations. He brings particular expertise to complex finance layering strategies, government relations, construction management and operational oversight. What are you most excited about for the coming year? I’m super excited about the opportunity to restore the historic Dew Drop Inn in Central City back to its former uses as a music venue, hotel and bar. This former Green Book site that featured performances by the likes of Ray Charles, Little Richard and Etta James, as well as local greats like Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and Deacon John, means a lot to the music community, the city, and even our region. People have longed for its reopening for many

years. I believe that its revival will bring great joy and a sense of triumph that is much needed in these difficult times. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? The biggest challenge right now is a confluence of problems brought on by the pandemic and now Hurricane Ida. Construction pricing and resources were already strained. That problem is exacerbated with the mass destruction from Ida in our region and as far away as New York that will leave us all competing for the same resources, which will increase prices and extend the time for recovering damaged properties. Less obviously, companies like ours will suffer the opportunity cost of rebuilding versus taking on new growth opportunities.



CELEBRATING 76 years in business, Gallo Mechanical’s footprint runs from Louisiana (New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette) to the Florida Gulf Coast and up toward the Carolinas. In the New Orleans region, projects include: The Four Seasons Hotel & Residence, Children’s Hospital, Superdome, New Orleans Convention Center Central Plant and Tulane National Primate Research Center. The company is also at work on Lafayette General Hospital and with Iredell Health in Charlotte, North Carolina. What are you most excited about for the coming year? We have seen significant growth across our family of companies. For example, Construction and Service in each of our offices throughout the Southeast has added 100 people since May 1, 2021, and has created incredible opportunities for our team. We are also getting started on several New Orleans projects that include: Charity Hospital





JP HYMEL Redevelopment, Laitram Northshore Expansion, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Superdome and Xavier University, along with Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles, an Amazon facility in Baton Rouge, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and several projects in Raleigh, North Carolina. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? Some of the challenges we face are price escalation and availability of materials, over which we have no control. We choose to focus on what we can control: recruiting and retaining the best people in the business who, time and time again, regardless of the challenge, will deliver for our clients. During the toughest days of the pandemic, we stayed focused on our values: family, service and performance, knowing that if we continue to provide opportunity through growth and empower our employees, we are staying true to these values and setting up Gallo Mechanical to thrive for many decades to come.

PRICE RANGE The number of homes sold in the $345,000 or more price range grew 20.3% to 4,171 homes in 2020. Homes sold for $148,999 or less were down 17.1% to 2,689 homes.


$149,000 TO $223,999

$224,000 TO $344,999

$345,000 OR MORE

$224,000 TO $344,999


$148,999 OR LESS

51 60 71

Price Range with the Most Closed Sales

SHARE OF HOMES FOR SALE $345,000 OR MORE 47.5% 45.0Z5 42.5% 40.0% 37.5% 35.0% 1-2017










AFTER WORKING AS A REALTOR since the mid-1990s, Anne Comarda started her own real estate company with her sister, Joyce Delery, in 2011. The company grew and in 2016 added a partner, Marty Brantley, and the three became the franchise owners of Engel & Voelkers, an international luxury real estate company serving Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Engel & Voelkers has two offices, one on Magazine Street and one on Martin Behrman Avenue. Comarda also serves as this year’s president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors (NOMAR), the voice of real estate for the region. What are you most excited about for the coming year? This year we are introducing a larger MLS (multiple listing service), which encompasses the NOMAR area as well as the Baton Rouge Association, Central Louisiana’s Association, and the Bayou Board of Realtors. The new company, called ROAM, will bring a greater value with more expansive access to information and more tools to enhance the capabilities of our members at no increase to member cost. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? The biggest issue I see in the coming year in real estate in the New Orleans area is inventory. It is a delicate balance between the number of buyers and the available houses. The low interest rates have put more buyers into the market and those looking to move who already have homes are cautious about listing their homes for fear that they won’t find a house to suit their needs. I also see the continued growth of smaller boutique brokerages. Agents want to have more control of their business and get larger percentages of commissions, but they don’t want to give up the atmosphere of camaraderie and the security of having a broker who has their back. More recently, Ida brought somewhat different challenges from Katrina as there was more wind damage than flooding. Inspections and accurate disclosures are essential. Renovations, especially roof age, will now be dated from “Ida.”

















In 2020, properties with 1 bedroom or less saw the greatest decrease at 0.7% of list price received. The highest percent of original list price received at sale went to properties with 3 bedrooms at 8.9%.


This chart uses a rolling 12-month average for each data point.





98% 96% 94% 92% 90%






f 46












Formwork Design and Development is an integrated real estate development company focused on mixed-use and urban infill projects, primarily in the Greater New Orleans region. Its work includes mixed-use buildings in the French Quarter and Warehouse District, the redevelopment of the former Brown’s Dairy site, and several housing- and hospitality-focused projects. What are you most excited about for the coming year? Formwork is developing a shared workspace in a historic warehouse along the Lafitte Greenway. We conceived this project almost like a hotel, in that we strive to create a unique sense of place and a high level of service. We also recently completed an affordable housing development in partnership with a shared-housing provider. By providing a higher level of service, we’ve removed much of the friction from living with roommates and delivered much-needed housing to our community, without public subsidy. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? Cost. We’re getting hit from all sides in a way that increases the price of space, especially housing, and puts downward pressure on investment and innovation. COVID-19 disrupted the supply chain, caused material cost increases, and led to a general increase in subcontractor costs. A tight labor market, a shortage of skilled workers and the rebuilding demands created by Hurricane Ida further exacerbate this challenge. Policy also plays a role in in development costs. Given the cost to build, the resources in our region and the demand for additional supply — especially across most sectors of the housing market — supportive policy is critical to the viability of new projects. Measures such as the timely issuances of permits, coordination across agencies and land use policies that encourage housing creation can meaningfully reduce the cost of development.

MAMIE GASPERECZ is proud to continue her tenure as the first female chair of the Vieux Carre Commission, an 85-yearold agency responsible for oversight of the historic preservation of the French Quarter. The VCC was written into the Louisiana State Constitution in 1936 and charged with preserving and protecting the invaluable historic architectural heritage of the French Quarter. The commission advises and guides the process to ensure that the historic fabric of the Quarter is maintained to the highest standards of the National Historic Landmarks District. She is also the current president of the VCC Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded to specifically support and further the preservation efforts of the VCC. What are you most excited about for the coming year? In recent years, the foundation has taken on big projects like the Design Guidelines and the Vieux Carre Virtual


MAMIE GASPERECZ Library (digitizing all the VCC’s paper files to save them from natural disasters and make them more accessible to the public.) This resource was one of the only city websites that was unaffected by the cyber attack and Hurricane Ida. The foundation also works directly with engagement and education of residents, property owners and caretakers. Since the VCC is a city agency that ensures the permitting of new building projects, outreach and education is important work. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today? The 2019 cyber attack on City Hall and COVID protocols drastically changed the manner in which the VCC conducts its public meetings — literally propelling us into the 21st century. Our virtual meetings have ensured the continued engagement of residents, property owners (local and out-of-town), and those who work in the French Quarter, and have allowed us to continue our important work.



The Hits Just Keep on Comin’ Already beaten down from 18 months of shutdowns, mandates, staffing and supply issues, Hurricane Ida is just the latest hit to Louisiana’s restaurant industry, but optimism still endures.


“Basically, you just want to cry uncle. I think we’ve all had enough already.” These were the first thoughts of Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), when asked about how Hurricane Ida has affected Louisiana bar and restaurant owners, a group already severely challenged over the past 18 months by COVID-19. “I talked to a guy yesterday who told me he’s been forced to close one of his restaurants permanently and just heard from another person on the Northshore that they have to do the same thing,” he said. “For every big restaurant in this state there are 20 small ones that employ maybe 15 people or less and they just don’t have the capacity to adapt as quick to all these changes.” The LRA represents 4,500 members across the state, including 1,200 in the New Orleans metropolitan area, where the restaurant industry is the largest employer. Harris said member restaurants were already struggling with the shutdowns before mask and vaccine mandates created more obstacles — and then came Hurricane Ida.

“We had talked to [Mayor Cantrell] about [vaccine mandates] in regard to making a mandate for guests, but she decided to make it for staff too,” said Harris. “The fact is, there’s a good amount of people who don’t want to get the vaccine and they can easily just go outside of Orleans Parish and get a restaurant job, and we’ve been seeing that happen, which is hurting Orleans Parish businesses.” Harris said he also worries that changing mask and vaccine mandates will cause visiting large groups to take their business elsewhere. “We’ve already lost two large trade shows, one for the chiefs of police and another solar energy show, and I think there’s a real concern among some of these groups that the city could impose additional mandates on them with limited time to prepare,” said Harris, “maybe enough that it would change the way they look at New Orleans and look to one of our competing markets that doesn’t have the same factors.” The loss of big events is something Frank Gagliano Jr. said is top of mind right now. His family’s business, Frank’s Restaurant, has been serving Italian food on Decatur Street in the French Quarter for 55 years. “Being located where we are, we live off the big events and festivals Downtown,” said Gagliano. “And I can tell you, after all the shutdowns people were so excited to get back out again that we had the best July I’ve ever seen. But now, with this hurricane, it was like going into the war zone again.” Gagliano said his restaurant received some damage from Ida but he was able to make the necessary repairs himself, so he felt fortunate to be able to reopen his doors on Sept. 9, nine days after the hurricane hit. “We were one of the first restaurants to open all the way from Decatur to Esplanade, and then Decatur to Canal,” he said. “All of our three cooks are back, and we got it open. Now we’ve just got to build things back up.” Another family-owned business with over 80 years in business, Felix’s — one of the oldest oyster bars in New Orleans — said they’ve definitely had staffing struggles throughout the pandemic. “Being in the French Quarter, we have a lot of competition when it comes to staffing, just in a fiveblock radius, said Tony Saltaformaggio, general manager of one of Felix’s Restaurant Group’s two New Orleans locations. The company also operates a restaurant in Mandeville and in Gulfport, Mississippi, and is set to open another in Pensacola Beach, Florida, in October. After being forced to close the French Quarter restaurant for over six months early in the pandemic, Saltaformaggio said 2021 sales were looking really good. “We were actually doing 30% over our 2019 sales,” he said. “Employees and guests were returning. But then the vaccine mandates hit, and everything just stopped dead. Suddenly, we had zero guests coming in the door.” Saltaformaggio said the company quickly moved to offer a $200 bonus — $100 for each shot — to encourage staff to get vaccinated, and it worked for 75 of the restaurant’s 104 employees. Business, however,



“Our employment costs have risen by 15 to 20% over the last six months — which in the restaurant world is essentially overnight — and then add to that our commodity costs have also risen by 20 to 30%. That’s a 30 to 40% increase we’ve seen in our two biggest dollar items.” Securing supplies has been a huge issue for the restaurant, whose menu items are packed with fresh produce and proteins. “Our main supplier is Performance Food Group out of Houma, and they got hit so hard we can’t get anything from them right now,” said Howard just a week out from the storm. “So, I’ve gone to Restaurant Depot seven or eight times in the last 12 hours just trying to get as much product as I can get my hands on. Chicken has basically been almost impossible to find.” After being forced to close for a week and a half due to Hurricane Ida, Howard said it was an extra hit to find that all of the food in three of the restaurant’s walk-in freezers had spoiled. “We tried to give away as much as we could before the storm, but we still took about a $250,000 loss,” he said. “And I’m not expecting anything from anyone at this point, even insurance companies. We’ve done spoilage claims before and the deductibles are so high with a named storm that we don’t come close to meeting them.” Howard was, however, hopeful that Felipe’s wo u l d r e ce i ve a i d f ro m t h e Re s t au ra n t Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion national program set up to provide assistance to restaurants, bars and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19. “I applied,” he said, “but I never heard back.” According to Harris, it’s an all-too-common scenario.

he said, didn’t pick up for the next week and a half, and then Hurricane Ida hit and the restaurant was forced to shut down again, this time for a week and four days before opening to limited hours. “We’re optimistic, though,” he said. “We usually get great crowds for the Saints and LSU games, so we’ll have to see.” Pike Howard, director of finance and development for Felipe’s Taqueria, another local family-owned business that started 15 years ago and now includes seven restaurants — three in New Orleans — also noted vaccine and mask mandates have created an added struggle. “Almost every time there is a new restriction, the restaurant industry is a poster child for it,” he said. “It’s really gotten so that the hurricane was almost just another thing for us to contend with.” While Howard said he feels fortunate that 80% of his staff — which includes approximately 125 people across its three New Orleans locations — are vaccinated (in large part likely due to the fact the company offers $750 bonuses to employees who choose to get fully vaccinated), he still expressed concern over OSHA requirements announced last month mandating that employers of over 100 people show that all employees are either vaccinated or undergoing weekly tests. Howard said staffing issues were a problem prior to the first mask and vaccine mandates, so the restaurant has also raised wages by about $2 an hour.




“After all the shutdowns people were so excited to get back out again that we had the best July I’ve ever seen. But now, with this hurricane, it was like going into the war zone again.” Frank Gagliano Jr., owner of Frank’s Restaurant

“We asked for $120 billion for the fund and got $28.6 billion, so we knew there was going to be a large hole from the start,” he said. “For the first 21 days, the money was set aside for veteran and minority- and women-owned businesses and basically the money didn’t even cover that group. Many people who got approved never got funded.” Among them is a local woman-owned business, Happy Raptor Distilling. Co-owner Meagen Moreland-Taliancich said the company was approved and were counting on the money. “We opened just before COVID-19 hit, so we’ve been basically battling since day one,” she said. “And that money, it would have solidified our ability to keep going. Now, instead, especially with this hurricane adding to things, we have had to really go into crisis mode. We’re definitely taking things one day at a time.” Harris said the LRA is currently hard at work trying to get companies like Happy Raptor Distilling and Felipe’s Taqueria the money they need, and in many cases, were already promised. “We have been working on the Entrée Act, which is a couple of bipartisan bills that seek to take $45 billion that’s already been appropriated for COVID relief and use that to get everyone funded who has already applied for the RRF and is qualified,” he said. “We’re not asking for more money, we’re just asking to use what’s already there.” Harris said the key now is to build up as many co-sponsors to the act as possible. “We’ve got [Sen. Bill] Cassidy and [Sen. Steve] Scalise and [Rep. Troy] Carter, who have all signed on,” he said, “but we’re going to have to build a bigger tent. The hope is that the bills could be up at the end of this year.”

“It’s hard to keep being resilient when you’re paddling against the current all the time,” he said. “But we do stretch better than any other community I know of.” Stan Harris, president and CEO, Louisiana Restaurant Association

Harris noted, however, that even with all the struggles and uncertainty that have slammed the industry over the last 18 months, restaurants continue to give back to the community. “You see them out there, cooking for the people who need it most, because that’s just what they do,” he said. “If you think about it, the restaurant industry is an essential part of our philanthropic community. There is no charitable event in which they don’t participate.” Even as it struggles to hold on each day, for example, Happy Raptor Distilling helped feed approximately 160 people in its neighborhood over Labor Day, and they are far from alone. After the hurricane, social media was packed with announcements of area restaurants out providing food. Among those restaurants determined to give back is the Mosquito Supper Club, a farm-to-table offering on Dryades Street in Uptown run by owner and founder Melissa Martin. The restaurant specializes in the kind of Cajun food Martin said she grew up on in Terrebonne Parish. She said seeing her home so devastated after Hurricane Ida, she knew she had to do whatever she could to help. So, Martin — along with her brother and two sisters (three of her five siblings) — began strategizing and making lots of phone calls. “We started a Go Fund Me called in partnership with friends from Chauvin and the Helio Foundation with the goal of getting money directly into the hands of the people who need it,” she said. “We’ve got people there, on the ground, making lists of what’s needed and then we go and hand out cash. We’re also providing ice, water and gas and cooking up hot meals.” Martin said she’s been focusing on getting big brands that have long benefited from and promoted their ties with bayou communities, including Yeti, Salt Life and Community Coffee. She added that local companies have also stepped up. “French Truck Coffee just gave us $10,000 yesterday,” she said. As of Sept. 14, the fund had over 3,500 donors and had reached $371,706 of its $400,000 goal. “These are people who are sleeping in tents outside their homes because they will not leave their home,” she said. “In the restaurant industry we’ve all been in the hell fire for the last 18 months but so many of us get so much from the bayou, including our seafood, and it just feels right to recognize that and give back.”

Martin added that while her restaurant has had a lot of staffing and turnover issues during the pandemic, she is one owner that is grateful for the mask and vaccine mandates. “We’ve definitely lost some staff because they didn’t want to get vaccinated,” she said. “But the thing is, I don’t want to work with anyone who is not vaccinated or be around anyone who isn’t, so I thank God the government is doing this.” Even in the face of so many challenges, the message from many restaurant owners is, maybe surprisingly, still one of optimism. In the ultimate act of optimism, there are some owners that are even expanding right now. Among those is Magasin Café owner Kim Nguyen. Nguyen opened Magazine Street’s first Vietnamese restaurant 12 years ago and has since expanded, opening Magasin Kitchen in Downtown in 2016 and a restaurant in Oklahoma in 2018. Her latest offering, Mukbang, aims to bring a Vietnamese take on Cajun seafood to Oak Street. “We were supposed to open the beginning of September, but obviously the hurricane changed all that,” she said. As of Sept. 10, Nguyen said she was waiting on electrical work that needed to be done at the new restaurant and dealing with spoilage issues both at Mukbang and her other two New Orleans restaurants. Not only is Mukbang a new concept for Nguyen, it’s also her largest restaurant to-date — by far. “We’re taking over the space that was formerly Chiba and, at 3,500 square feet, it’s easily double the size of our other restaurants, so we’ll see how it goes,” she said. “We’re hoping to open the end of September.” If there’s one word you could use to describe Louisiana’s restaurant industry it would be resilient, but Harris said it’s a word that’s started to really irritate him. “It’s hard to keep being resilient when you’re paddling against the current all the time,” he said. “But we do stretch better than any other community I know of.” Howard agrees. “As a group I know we’re just going to figure this all out,” he said. “We’re in this ever-changing landscape right now that requires so much planning and energy and all we want to do is what we love — feeding people.”n




Senior Solutions

From enjoying luxurious amenities like meditative spaces, yoga studios, art rooms, and libraries to savoring New Orleans-style meals and relaxing views, area seniors are benefitted by the variety of quality retirement living communities available in Greater New Orleans. Award-winning and innovative programs and approaches distinguish the area’s top choices for community living that allow older adults ways to stay active and engaged while relieving the pressures of maintaining a home. Meanwhile, home care services also provide solutions for seniors and families who prefer their home environment and its familiarity and comforts. When it’s time for added assistance, both home care professionals and retirement communities can bring relief to aging parents and their adult children who want the best care for mom and dad. If you or a loved one is needing more help with daily activities, there are plentiful resources available for maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle while receiving needed support.




Retirement Living Poydras Home With its ongoing expansion, Poydras Home will soon become Louisiana’s first Green House® Project community—this revolutionary care approach is focused on the fundamental principle that each resident should be the central decision maker in his or her daily life. With this expansion and transformation, Poydras Home will offer two new buildings with three homes each. The

SPONSORED Green House model groups a smaller number of residents sharing each house led by a dedicated Care Partner highly trained to make each day meaningful. This smaller community setup within the larger community has the added benefit of limiting COVID exposure. Homes will feature open floor plans and increased access to Poydras Home’s beautiful grounds. Poydras Home’s Historic House will be rebuilt as the Center for Healthy Living, where all residents will enjoy yoga, a therapy gym, a library, meditative space and more. Poydras Home is pleased to be working with Eskew Dumez Ripple architects to ensure the structural changes will be progressive and rooted in established, aesthetic traditions. For more information on Poydras Home’s services, visit Lambeth House Lambeth House, a trusted leader in upscale retirement living located in Uptown New Orleans, offers Independent Living, Assisted Living, Nursing Care and Memory Support. But, it’s much more than a place to live; it’s a more inspiring way to live, where you can trade the challenges of maintaining a house for a lifestyle that is more fulfilling—carefree, in the company of friends, plus an astounding array of services and amenities that fill each day with choice and possibility. After all, you’ll always want to laugh, learn, contribute and celebrate, and Lambeth House offers a community where you can do just that. At Lambeth House, you can attend musical events, join in a history discussion group, or nurture your mind and body with an exercise program designed just for you. Residents also enjoy fantastic cuisine prepared by the community’s Executive Chef and are able to take in breathtaking views over Audubon Park and the Mississippi River. Above all else, Lambeth House is committed to your safety. One hundred percent of staff and residents have been vaccinated for coronavirus. For more information, visit or call 504-865-1960.

Home Care Home Care Solutions Home Care Solutions is a locally owned and operated company specializing in compassionate in-home sitting services, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Care as well as Aging Life Care Management™ services to help your elderly loved ones extend their independence at home. “Our mission is to help our clients age in place gracefully while maintaining as much independence as possible,” says Rachel Palmer, Business Development Coordinator. “During the pandemic, many families have been under additional pres-

sure to provide care for an aging loved one—as many of them are also coping with massive changes to their own schedules and lives, we can step in and provide an extra arm of support that provides less risk of exposure than at a retirement community while allowing for continued connection with family.” Caregivers are carefully matched to meet your loved one’s needs and personality, and their familiarity with local resources saves you time and often saves you money while their compassionate understanding of the aging process relieves you of unnecessary distress. For more information, call 504-828-0900 or visit Home Instead Senior Care Seeing the signs of an aging parent who needs help can be overwhelming, but with Home Instead Senior Care, caring for an older loved one doesn’t have to be a struggle. From individualized help around the house to advanced Alzheimer’s care, Home Instead CAREGivers enhance the lives of aging adults and their families by working to help keep seniors safe and sound at home. With a sincere passion, CAREGivers are special people genuinely dedicated to helping make a difference in seniors’ lives. A local franchise owned by New Orleans native Lisa Rabito, Home Instead offers the added benefit of staff who understand New Orleans’ culture and hospitality. CAREGivers provide support through non-medical services like meal preparation, transportation, personal care, medication reminders, and more, while working in tandem when needed with healthcare

providers, home health, and hospice. CAREGivers are available from 20 hours a week to 24 hours a day. Aging adults no longer in the home can also request Home Instead services at the retirement community or nursing facility where they reside. For more information, visit or call 504-455-4911.

Planning & Arrangements Jacob Schoen & Son Jacob Schoen & Son has been providing affordable pre-need and funeral services to families in Greater New Orleans since 1874. Whether you are looking for burial, cremation, or memorial services, the Schoen family and staff are committed to listening to your needs and creating a personalized funeral that is both memorable and uplifting. They bring together decades of experience caring for families of all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life. They pledge to treat you and your loved ones just like family, and they guarantee to offer services that meet your specifications while exceeding all of your expectations. Located at 3827 Canal Street, Jacob Schoen & Son invites you to come see the difference and compare the value. Stop by or call 504-6050342 to learn more about their one-of-a-kind space, discuss what options they have available, and learn more about how they can help you or a loved one fulfill their wishes. In-person and virtual accommodations are available with complimentary, seamless live streaming. P BIZNEWORLEANS.COM






WORKSPACES Growth, collaboration and tech savvy define St. Claude Avenue-based real estate broker Urban Vision’s trajectory

WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? RentCheck’s high-tech solution to security deposit disputes captures millions from investors.

ON THE JOB Commercial landscape maintenance company Greenscape Concepts is a woman-owned and woman-run business.


Planning and Foresight Growth, collaboration and tech savvy define St. Claude Avenue-based real estate broker Urban Vision’s trajectory BY M E L A N IE WAR NE R SPE NCER PHOTOS BY SAR A E SSE X B R ADLEY

IN NOVEMBER 2019, BOUTIQUE REAL estate broker Urban Vision moved from its offices on Ulloa Street to a space on St. Claude Avenue. The brokerage originally opened in 2007 and was housed above the Mid-City Yacht Club, of which owner and co-broker MJ Sauer is a co-owner. “It was convenient at the time so I could help run the bar,” said Sauer. “As we outgrew the space, and the bar also needed more space, we acquired 4025 Ulloa Street and did a complete post-Katrina gut job renovation. We eventually found this gem of a building on St. Claude that hadn’t been occupied since Hurricane Katrina. It had such good bones and historic beauty, and with the commercial (enterprise) going, we set our sights on that as our future office.” The circa-1913 building is 3,000 square feet and, according to architects Sauer met with, is possibly a Sears and Roebuck kit home. Neighbor Charmaine Neville told Sauer it was “originally a boarding house for African American longshoremen run by an African American woman who ran a tight ship and had strict curfews.” Sauer recently took time out to share some of the details of the design and the brokerage business, which in January 2020 joined forces with Keller Williams New Orleans. (Some answers may have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

What were your goals for the overall design concept and why? The design goals were to keep it simple and retain as much of the original character as possible. We didn’t move any walls, with the exception of reworking the extra-large bathroom to a smaller




The Urban Vision offices are housed in a circa-1913 building that — according to architects with whom owner MJ Sauer met — was possibly built as a Sears and Roebuck kit home. A neighbor told Sauer the building was “originally a boarding house for African American longshoremen.”

We wanted our office to feel very homey, so we utilized home furnishings and custom-built pieces.” MJ Sauer of Urban Vision, owner of the building and co-broker of Keller Williams New Orleans

bathroom and two closets. The hardwood floors are simply stunning, and we left them a natural color with a simple satin coat. We wanted our office to feel very homey, so we utilized home furnishings and custom-built pieces. What were the biggest design challenges and how were they overcome? The building challenged us to imagine how a 100-plus-year-old kit home could

become a versatile space that Realtors — and a yet-to-be-known tenant downstairs — could occupy while serving the community. Ultimately, we renovated the place and then found a wonderful tenant in Zuri Nelson, who owns and operates Botanicals NOLA, a healthy supplement and smoothie shop. He is a wonderful partner to have in the building and it is such a nice addition to the neighborhood to have a healthy option.



What are the standout features? The building is really unique. I love the large rooms — that probably worked well for the original purpose of a boarding house — but the historic exterior is the real charm. The inviting front porch is perfect for a New Orleans day and the curved balcony with shake siding adds such intrigue by changing the texture and adding the curve. How would you describe your company’s mission and its core audience? Urban Vision is a boutique real estate firm. [In] January 2020, just after moving into our new location, we joined forces with Keller Williams New Orleans in an effort to maintain our high level of customer service and couple it with the world class training and technology offered by Keller Williams. Our business is rapidly changing and becoming very tech driven. Keller Williams New Orleans has the vision to stay many steps ahead and allow us to be tech-enabled agents to better serve our clients. Our mission is to build to build careers worth having, lives worth living, experiences worth giving and legacies worth leaving. Our core audience is entrepreneurs who want to build a real estate business and anyone who wants to buy or sell real estate and wants to work with a tech-enabled agent who was trained and operates on the best technology platform in the business. How do you set yourselves apart from entities doing similar work in New Orleans? Our associates are entrepreneurs at their core and build their own real estate business to serve our diverse community. The combination of a New Orleans entrepreneur supported by the Keller Williams New Orleans technology, training and regulatory platform allows our associates’ clients to have the best customer experience and find deals faster. How do you promote a positive work atmosphere? Our culture is one of sharing knowledge and helping people grow through training and collaboration. At Keller Williams New Orleans we have created a culture where everyone wins through equitable treatment. We are a diverse company with over 120 associates. We are always working to ensure our brokerage looks like the community it serves.




“The hardwood floors are simply stunning, and we left them a natural color with a simple satin coat,” says Sauer, who collaborated on the interior design with her partners. Sauer said she was drawn to the space by its large rooms, inviting front porch and curved balcony with shake siding.





3,000 square feet RENOVATION DATE

2015 to 2019


November 2019 PERSON IN CHARGE

MJ Sauer, owner of the building and co-broker of Keller Williams New Orleans BUILDOUT CONTRACTOR

Elbert Weinberger of Associated Housing Contractors INTERIOR DESIGNER

MJ Sauer; real estate business partner James Howell; Howell’s partner Todd Breckman; and Ed Horan.


Conference table built by Jason McDonald; period lighting sourced from eBay (from as far as away as Germany), plus some modern lighting from West Elm; local art including works by Alex Hafner and Michelle Andre, mixed in with maps

What are your biggest business challenges? To get the word out about who we really are. Keller Williams is sometime seen as a corporate entity, but we are a local company owned by lifelong New Orleanians who celebrate inclusion and diversity. There is power behind the international Keller Williams brand that benefits our agents and clients — including an international marketing and referral network — but ultimately, we are your neighbors and will hold your hand through the complex process of buying or selling a home from

start to finish. The combination of locally owned and operated and the power of the largest real estate brokerage in the world is an incredible advantage for our associates and their clients. What goals are you looking to meet in the next 12 months? We know that owning a home is the single greatest path to wealth in this country so the more families our associates can serve and help realize that dream, the better off this city will be. n




Check Yourself RentCheck’s high-tech solution to security deposit disputes captures millions from investors. BY A S HL EY MCLE LL AN PORTRAIT BY SAR A E SSE X B R ADLEY

RentCheck CEO Marco Nelson and COO Lydia Winkler launched the app with the goal of providing an easy and convenient solution to the problem of rental inspections. The app is designed to be a win-win for both renters and landlords, saving time and money via a virtual inspection process.


IDEApitch winner RentCheck — a locally based startup created by two Tulane alumni — is the first online, automated property inspection platform designed to cut through the struggle between renters and landlords over deposits and refunds. Early recognition locally for the platform was a key factor in the success of the company’s launch. “Winning New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week provided us a stage to tell our story, and was a great catalyst,” said Marco Nelson, CEO, who co-founded the company with Lydia Winkler, COO. “We were in our last semester at Tulane’s MBA program, and winning gave us the momentum to build, raise capital, and hire our first employee, Lucy Warburton, who was VP of product at LevelSet and took a big chance to join us as our head of product.” On August 9, the company announced that it had raised a combined $3.6 million from investors across the U.S. to continue to promote the application in new areas and with more tenants and property managers. After successfully suing a previous landlord after a deposit dispute, Winkler realized she was far from alone in her struggles. According to RentCheck, as many as 40% of tenants end up challenging their landlords over the amount they end up getting back, with an estimated total back and forth of $45 billion per year at stake. The online offering is designed to cut through the red tape by offering virtual, remote inspections that can be regularly scheduled, thus saving both landlords and tenants time and money. “Renters benefit from RentCheck because it protects them against unjust deductions from security deposits,” said Winkler. “It builds trust between landlords and renters. And if we can ease that relationship, the world will be a more peaceful place.”




HOW IT WORKS Tenants can schedule their own inspections at their convenience. Inspections are virtual, eliminating contact and trips to properties. Property managers can schedule reminders for inspections. Landlords can send automated notifications to tenants for inspections. Standardized reports are gathered and stored in one place.

The application also has big benefits for property managers and landlords. “Consistent property inspections help find issues that may create future problems if left unattended,” Nelson said. “When landlords make sure that the structural integrity of their building is maintained, they ensure that their tenants feel cared for.” Nelson — who has experience both in managing properties across the country as well as a background in mobile engineering —created the initial application and software for RentCheck. The team quickly expanded, and the company has since grown its engineering team in-house to continue to develop mobile and web applications. As homeownership rates decline and the number of renters increases across the country, keeping track of rental units and tenants is more important now than ever. According to an April 2021 report from Statista, “In 2020, there were approximately 43 million housing units occupied by renters in the United States. This number has remained steady since 2014, but is part of a long-term upward swing since 1975.” RentCheck subscription rates are dependent upon the number of units managed by each landlord or property manager, from $5 per month (1-20 units) to $75 per month (81-150 units) with custom quotes for larger organizations. Plans are month to month, with no setup fees and no longterm contracts for use. Since its launch, the company has seen tremendous growth, in part due to the virtual and remote nature of the product and the unforeseen quarantine and precautions taken during COVID-19. “RentCheck wasn’t created with a pandemic in mind — however, it happens that our product enables property inspections to continue [during the pandemic], while they simply cannot be performed without a technology like RentCheck,” Winkler said. “In many parts of the world, property inspections have come to a halt due to social distancing measures. During the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in adoption from property managers who, in the past, may have been slower to use new technology. The property management space, in general, has been slow to adopt new technology, and we have seen the pandemic accelerate technology adoption across the industry.” The company currently has 10 full-time employees and a long list of subscribers,


with the number growing organically, according to Nelson, as users spread the word. “RentCheck works with thousands of different property management companies and independent landlords who, in turn, manage hundreds of thousands of properties across the United States and Canada. They then invite all of their residents to join them on RentCheck,” he said. As the company moves forward with the $3.6 million in seed money from investors,

Winkler notes that the successes they have seen are just the beginning. “Though we have grown quickly during the past two years, we are just scratching the surface when it comes to the 46 million rental units in the U.S. Our mission is to eliminate disputes over security deposits, and to make the rental process fair and transparent. In order to achieve that, we plan to make RentCheck the standard-bearer across the industry.” n

RENTCHECK INVESTORS INCLUDE: Jim Coulter, founder of TPG Capital Jim Payne, MoPub Ken Goldman, former CFO of Yahoo Mark Zaleski and John Kuolt, BCG Digital Ventures Brian Long, founder of Attentive Cox Enterprises Irongrey Context Ventures Techstars

New Orleans has been a great place to launch a technology company. The local tech community has been very supportive, and we’re thrilled to be headquartered in the best city in the swamp. Lydia Winkler, RentCheck cofounder and COO



PUBLISHER’S NOTICE: All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Ace and the Louisiana Open Housing Act, which make it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. For more information, call the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-273-5718.




For more information, contact Sales Manager, Caitlin Sistrunk at 504.830.7252 or Caitlin@Bi Ne







Woman Up! A rarity for its industry, commercial landscape maintenance company Greenscape Concepts is a womanowned and woman-run business that’s helping to beautify New Orleans. PHOTO BY JE F F E RY JO HNSTO N

FOUNDED BY NATIVE NEW ORLEANIAN and mother of six, Dominique Olivier, (seen here) in 2018, Greenscape Concepts has fast become a big player in the local landscaping scene. Bucking the trend of an industry that’s only 11% female, Greenscape Concepts has quickly landed some of the city’s largest contracts, maintaining the expansive grounds of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Convention Center Boulevard, Poydras Corridor and New Orleans Lakefront Airport. The company also services multifamily properties for 1stLake Properties and River Gardens. Determined to improve not just the landscape of the communities in which it works, a point of pride for Greenscape Concepts is its focus on creating job and career opportunities for local underserved communities.n

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.