CCIM Feature

Still Rebuilding

One CCIM uses his expertise to aid in Katrina devastation.

A year ago, Quentin D. Dastugue, CCIM, chief executive officer of Property One in New Orleans was featured in Commercial Investment Real Estate’s CCIM Spotlight for his efforts helping to rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina. Dastugue and his partners continue to persevere through the slow process of rebuilding. Commercial Investment Real Estate asked Dastugue to share what has been happening with his Gulf region properties since last year.

Click on this link to read Dastugue’s Spotlight feature.

CIRE: What is the rebuilding status? Are you still cleaning up? Have you been able to move tenants back into properties?

Dastugue : Rebuilding is slow but moving forward. The government has started a program called The Road Home, which pays homeowners for their losses. Once they get money, they then will figure out if they want to rebuild or not.

We still are cleaning up the French Quarter, Uptown, and the central business district. Some areas still are desolate, but a lot of businesses were able to move back into their spaces after six to eight months. Office and industrial had the highest return rate, only about 20 percent didn’t come back. Retail still is extremely sporadic.

CIRE: What has happened with temporary space users? What will happen once they vacate?

Dastugue : Some temporary space users still are in place, but they are all winding down. The Federal Emergency Management Agency didn’t take too much space and still is present in Baton Rouge, La. While we handle the leasing for the building, U.S. Agencies is the company that owns the building FEMA rents from. They will be moving in, although we are not sure how much space they will use. At the moment, I am not aware of anyone moving out. Baton Rouge, Lafayette, La., and the CBD of New Orleans all are tight and have healthy occupancy rates. However, if there is more space being put out, then that will create a negative effect on the market.

CIRE: What were some of the challenges you encountered while rebuilding? How were you able to work through them?

Dastugue : [Seemingly] easy things such as getting utilities turned on, building inspections, and government approvals take hours and days instead of minutes.

CIRE: Are you still working out of a temporary office?

Dastugue : No, I have been back in my office since the end of 2005.

CIRE: Using your past experience as a state representative, how were you able to help with the rebuilding effort?

Dastugue : Understanding how the system works, I was able to help my friends in public office get through the red tape a little quicker. Using my expertise and familiarity with the system, I helped them get their inspections done, meters approved, and utilities turned on.

CIRE: Do you find that more real estate pros are heading to the Gulf region to lend a hand and share their expertise?

Dastugue : While some people within the region left to pursue different opportunities, real estate professionals from other areas have not really come to help do business here. I have made new business relationships with brokers who already had tenants here, and I would welcome the help of anyone who was willing to lend a hand.

CIRE: Where do you think the Gulf region real estate market is headed? What were the first and what will be the last properties to come back? What still needs to happen in the market and how can people help?

Dastugue : The region is definitely in for a boom economy in the next three to five years. Money from the Road Home program, grant money, and construction money will help with rebuilding. Currently, levees, highways, and bridges are in the process of rebuilding.

As for properties, office was first to come back because the existing companies needed to get back to work. Retail will most likely be the last. At the moment, the worst hit areas have zero retail.

In order to help with the rebuilding, everybody just needs to put their heads down and get to work. On the inside, people can help by cleaning up and restarting businesses or starting businesses for the first time. As for people not in the area, sending volunteers and money always helps.

CIRE: What’s next for you? Do you plan on branching out to other markets rather than your current location?

Dastugue : I plan to stay in Louisiana. I have been doing a lot of developing, and I continue to manage commercial and residential condos. I can’t talk about any new projects yet, but one that I am working on is with the Episcopal Church. We have teamed up to help build 100 single-family homes in the central city to help out those families still in need after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Stephanie Bell

“I went through the [recession in the] 1980s and purposely set out a market plan that would not have the boom-and-bust [nature] that comes with real estate cycles.” — Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, Milkes Realty Valuation, Dallas“We were anticipating a slowdown in the market and wanted to develop an avenue of business that would create a steady stream of income.” — Yvonne Jones, CCIM, CPM, Zifkin Realty Management LLC, Chicago“I help struggling companies rethink their business models, which includes determining the most profitable use of their real estate.” — Audie Cashion, CCIM, Alpha World Properties LLC, High Point, N.C.Stephanie Bell is associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.


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