A 270-unit apartment complex on Veterans Memorial Boulevard is set to test whether luxury amenities more common to the Warehouse District and other downtown areas will draw renters into the Metairie real-estate market.
Atlanta-based Audubon, the developers of the $55 million residential block known as the “Metro at Clearview” are betting that high mortgage rates and nearby medical jobs will attract renters willing to pay as much as $3,250 a month for the biggest units and the best views. In recent weeks, they have started to sign up tenants to move in next spring when the interiors and landscaping are completed.
“It’s a real landmark project for Jefferson Parish and a first-of-its-type, Class A luxury modern rental community,” said Andrew Schwartz, the CEO of Audubon, who lives in the New Orleans area. “You can get similar in the Warehouse District in New Orleans but nothing in Metairie is comparable.”
The apartment complex is a key element of the four-year-old, $100 million project to transform the 35-acre traditional shopping mall site into a new kind of commercial hub at the corner of Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Clearview Parkway.
The Clearview Shopping Center, which first opened in 1968, was for decades dominated by big department stores like Sears and Maison Blanche, which had long seen their business models deteriorate as shopping habits changed.
The new Clearview City Center concept is following a national trend. Owners of traditional mall properties have been trying to remake them into suburban “lifestyle” communities that combine offices and other employment clusters with “experiential” retail and entertainment hubs.
For Clearview, that has meant building a new $115 million Ochsner “super clinic,” which employs 250, on the site of the old Sears department store. The Richards family, which has owned Clearview since it opened, have also brought in a branch of Regions Bank at the Veterans Blvd. end of the site.
The project was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent supply chain bottlenecks and soaring inflation, especially for building materials. That changed some expectations for the site: a plan for a hotel has been scaled back while the prospects for office space also are less certain.
Still, the project has advanced more than many developments in the metro area that were hit by similar forces. An $8 million overhaul of the Target store also was completed, and preparation work has begun that will lead to the demolition of the interior of the old mall to make way for a new, open-air area.
The residential component also is now nearly ready. The Metro’s construction has now “topped off,” meaning the exterior of the building is complete and all the major wiring, utilities and parking areas have been installed. The interior finishing and landscaping will be done over the next couple months.
There are several three-bedroom units going for rents of up to $3,250 and 10 studio apartments starting at $1,450 a month. The bulk of the complex consist of 150 one-bedroom units starting at $1,695 and 102 two-bedroom units starting at $2,395.
The complex will also have 11,000 square feet of common amenity space, which includes a “resort style pool,” a skyline lounge, a “Zen Courtyard,” a fitness center with a yoga room and a business lounge.
Schwartz said the Metro complex is partially a bet on changing demographics in the area, including the influx of medical jobs for the new Ochsner center and for LCMC Health’s expanding local footprint, which includes the two-year-old Children’s Emergency Hospital across Veterans and its acquisition of the nearby Tulane Lakeside and East Jefferson General hospitals.
Millennials on the move
Gina Winters, a real estate agent for Latter & Blum, said other factors that should favor The Metro include a weak home-buying market.
The steep increase in interest rates over the last two years has cooled off the housing market nationally and in the New Orleans area, where the median sale price in the 10 months through October was down 2.2%, according to the New Orleans Metro Association of Realtors. Amid all the uncertainty, many people are choosing to stay on the sidelines and rent, resulting in a 21% decline in home sales through October.
“It’s a good market for leasing right now because of all the uncertainty we’re having in the home sales market,” said Winters.
Winters added that while a lot will depend on amenities and how the interiors are finished out, The Metro could appeal to millennials who don’t want to enter the housing market.
“For folks trying to move out of New Orleans for various reasons, they’re trying to find in Jefferson Parish something comparable to what you would see in the Warehouse District.”
Those options have so far been mostly confined to pricier condo developments, such as Audubon Trace in Old Jefferson or the Delimon Place development in Old Metairie.