Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Get the prestige of a Jefferson Street address without the steep price tag.
By Wynce Nolley


A new downtown co-op style office rental, opening in early April, will cater to those who want the prestige of an office with a Jefferson Street address without the price tag that comes with it. The concept is similar to one promoted by New Orleans-based Launch Pad, which was looking to expand to Lafayette but has since backed away.

“What we’re trying to do here is something a little bit different where we have separate offices that you can rent, and you also have cubicles and a laptop space,” says Jim Keaty of Keaty Real Estate, which is heading up the effort at 444 Jefferson St., a building owned by Lafayette criminal defense attorney Thomas Guilbeau. “Let’s say you’re an investment banker and you work out of Baton Rouge and you need a place here in Lafayette because your clients ask where your office is. You can rent this place, and you could meet your clients here instead of Starbucks.”

The laptops spaces start at $150 per month with cubicles starting at $250 and office space ranging from $600 to $900 a month. Offices and cubicles will be furnished with a desk and chair. There will also be a shared conference room, a coffee area, a color copy machine and fax machine. “We have a couple of attorneys interested in leasing just one office,” says Keaty. “It’s great for people just starting up a business. You get a high profile business address because it’s 444 Jefferson. Everybody knows where Jefferson is. That’s one of the benefits.”

Other benefits offered at these pod-style offices will be no upfront costs, all-inclusive utilities, including high-speed Internet courtesy of LUS Fiber available in wi-fi and hard wired connections, and one parking space in the building’s parking lot per office. Additional parking spaces are $50 a month.

Keaty says phone services are not included because people don’t usually want to pay for a phone. However, if renters want a direct line the office will use a phone system through the Internet that offers voice mail, caller ID and fax for $30 a month.

According to Keaty, the idea was partially modeled from other similar ventures like Regus, a virtual office located all over the country, and Launch Pad.

“Launch Pad [was] actually interested in leasing [Guilbeau’s building] and doing this concept, but it was too small for them,” Keaty says. “And really, Launch Pad, and some of those places like Regus, they don’t even have any cubicles; they just want a big, open area. Launch Pad goes in and they’ll actually help some of the people that are there, and they’ll do web broadcasting and things like that. We’re more of just ‘Hey, we’ve got this space and we want to lease it out.’”

“We are unsure of the status of the Launch Pad project in Lafayette at this time,” says Gregg Gothreaux, president of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, which assisted the New Orleans group’s efforts to expand here. “It is encouraging to see Mr. Keaty step up to offer a similar concept in the downtown district. Creative professionals want to work in the heart of Lafayette’s arts and entertainment district. I understand this concept will provide space to individuals and entrepreneurs who may have worked from their homes or other venues helping to strengthen the creative, professional network that is growing in downtown Lafayette.”

Before sectioning off into separate spaces, Guilbeau’s downtown building housed BBR Creative and at one time a savings and loan company. The criminal defense lawyer says he has put up approximately $10,000 in start-up costs for the new venture.

“We’ve found that, in the last 18 months, there’s just not a market for 3,650 square feet at one time,” says Guilbeau. “A lot of people have come in and wanted individual offices, and I’ve never been willing to rent it that way before, but I am now. I think we’ll have a cross section of professional people and maybe techies that want a place to just plug in their computer and do their thing.

The space can be renovated anyway they want it at this point. If somebody said, ‘We’d like to do some of those cubicles closed in for privacy,’ we can do that. We’re wide open. It’s a good, positive business, an adjunct to downtown that we need more of.”

Guilbeau says he considered the space for a new downtown restaurant but wasn’t willing to wager on such a risky business. “Unless I was really going to bite that bullet and go into the restaurant business, I just didn’t want that. There’s a whole graveyard for restaurants that don’t work.”

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