Landmark preservation project adds to revitalization efforts in downtown Donaldsonville

Staff Report
The historic B. Lemann and Bro. building at the corner of Mississppi Street and Railroad Avenue in Donaldsonville has been renovated over recent months.

Neville Development announced the grand opening of the Lemann Art Lofts on Oct. 28 at 10 a.m. in the Donaldsonville historic district.

The Lemann Art Lofts is a historic restoration of the Bernard (B.) Lemann & Bro., Inc. Building at the corner of Mississippi Street and Railroad Avenue near Crescent Park.

Shown during the Lemann Art Lofts ribbon cutting ceremony are, from left, state Sen. Ed Price, owners Kevin Kelly and James Neville, Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, and state Rep. Ken Brass.

The B. Lemann & Bro Inc. building dates back some 150 years to 1877, when founder Jacob Lemann purchased two lots in its current location after previous buildings were engulfed by a fire that destroyed five buildings in the block.

In June of that same year, the Donaldsonville Chief reported that Bernard Lemann purchased two lots to prepare for an extensive brick building. Construction later began on the new building, designed by architect James Freret.

The United States Department of the Interior has placed the property on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building was opened in February of 1878 offering dry goods, clothing, groceries, and numerous other items popular for a mercantile store of the day. The building was closed in the early 1990s and has served only as the Donaldsonville Museum for a short period of time. After the closing of the museum, the building stood empty for more than 20 years.

The building was purchased and restored in partnership by James Neville and Kevin Kelly with a total estimated investment of over $15 million. The building, now known as the Lemann Art Lofts is a sprawling 55,000 square foot, mixed use residential and commercial building featuring 42 housing units on the renovated second and third floor of the Lemann building and a smaller new development to the immediate rear of the building facing Crescent Park. The first floor will house the recently announced Parish of Ascension Early Childhood Learning Center.The project was a partnership of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, the Louisiana Office of Community Development, Home Bank, Stonehenge Capital, Boston Financial Investment Management and co-owners Neville and Kelly. The project was designed by HCI Architects, a division, constructed by Impetus (formerly known as Palmisano) Construction, and will be managed by HRI Properties.

Newly constructed apartment buildings are shown at the rear of the B. Lemann and Bro. building in Donaldsonville.

“It’s been a long-time coming, but we are so happy to see this landmark achievement for the City of Donaldsonville,” Neville said. “We are proud to be able to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the City of Donaldsonville and hope that our investment has made a remarkable contribution to the efforts to improve the lives of the community and bring continued economic impact to the community.”

“It has been said that this project could be one of the single largest private investments in a rural community in the State of Louisiana’s history,” said Lee Melancon, Director of Community and Economic Development and Main Street Manager for the City of Donaldsonville. “We have known all along that this project was an anchor to the continued revitalization of the City of Donaldsonville and was an integral part of the City’s Downtown Development District Strategic Plan which was written in 2016."

“There were numerous presentations and recruited developers to believe in this vision, but we are so blessed that the Lemann family partnered with Mr. Neville and Mr. Kelly back in 2019 to begin this journey. They have overcome so much adversity with the pandemic, the labor shortage, Hurricane Ida, and the immense inflated construction costs, it has been nothing short of a miracle that this project made it to the finish line,” said Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy J. Sullivan Sr. "Our community is forever grateful for the time and investment of all the partners who made this possible and know that there will be much more to come to continue the growth of our community."

The Lemann Arts Lofts are welcoming residents and features affordable rental rates. The units will be available for touring on Oct. 28 during the grand opening. To get rental information or to tour available units, interested individuals should contact (225) 224-8092. The rental office is touring daily (Monday through Friday) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Lemann Art Lofts website is lemannartlofts.com. The Lemann Art Lofts is an Equal Housing Opportunity property.