Historic B. Lemann and Bro. redevelopment nears May completion, adjacent properties to be reimagined next

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
Work continues on the B. Lemann and Bro. building, located at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Mississippi Street in the Donaldsonville historic district.

Kevin Kelly, owner of Houmas House and Gardens on the Ascension Parish east bank and investor in Donaldsonville's historic district, provided an update on the B. Lemann and Bro. renovation and the proposed leasing of three adjacent properties to Ascension Parish government.

He joined Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan at City Hall for the Making Progress live-streamed program March 24

As discussed during a parish finance committee meeting in Gonzales earlier in the month, parish leaders are hoping to utilize the Lemann's Farm Supply building and two neighboring properties along Mississippi Street to improve the quality of life for west side citizens.

Plans are in place for the farm supply business to eventually move over the next two years to a more rural location.

The B. Lemann and Bro. building dates back to circa 1885, according to Kelly. He said he initially looked into buying it around eight years ago.

A crew works on the B. Lemann and Bro. building along Mississippi Street in the Donaldsonville historic district.

Kelly and James Neville partnered to purchase the property and began its redevelopment last January. He anticipates the project will be completed in May, and expects residents to begin moving in some time in June.

The building, located at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Mississippi Street, qualified for historic tax credits and a federal government grant which covered some 40 percent of the nearly $15 million project.

Both one- and two-bedroom units of roughly 800- and 1,100-square-feet will be included, and it will be artist-preferred.

"I visited it and they are absolutely beautiful units," he said.

Along with common areas, Kelly said some of the units will feature architectural remnants of the historic building. More than 40 units will be in the original building, and 12 units will be in the new property.

A new addition to the property is under construction where the former Falcon's Body Shop was located.

He added that an entrepreneur could utilize the main space, which is some 8,000-square feet, to fill a business need in the community.

"There's so many opportunities in this community for what the citizens may want to go there," said Kelly, mentioning ideas such as a coffee shop or gym.

In discussing the Lemann Farm Supply building, he said he planned to renovate it the same way he envisioned the B. Lemann and Bro. building. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal financing for such projects were put on hold.

As a private developer, Kelly has worked out a proposed cooperative agreement with parish government for a possible wellness center or vocational training campus.

"With cooperation, I think this whole town could be changed drastically," he said.

Sullivan thanked Kelly for his investment in the city's historic district.

"I applaud you for having the vision to come to the City of Donaldsonville and invest in the city," the mayor said. "We hope this will just catapult us into a position where people want to come to Donaldsonville because it's a great place to work, live, and play."