Written by Stephanie Riegel for the Baton Rouge Business Report | April 25, 2017

One of the downtown skyline’s most iconic buildings is getting a new look.

The Chase South Tower at 451 Florida St. will undergo an exterior renovation this summer—a mineral stain that will give the 21-story, mud-brown high-rise a sleek, new, whitewashed appearance.

The facelift is part of a larger investment in the building that its New York-based owners, Florida Street Holdings LLC, are making in an effort to more aggressively market the 49-year-old property. At 76%, the 300,000-square-foot tower has the lowest occupancy rate of all class A office buildings downtown.

The owners are spending more than $3 million on the mineral rinse and on renovations to the 10th and 21st floors, which are among the vacancies in the building. Both floors have been completely gutted and will be redeveloped into “loft spaces” with exposed brick walls and polished concrete floors.

The 21ts floor was home to the Camelot Club, which closed unexpectedly in early 2016. Other floors in the building also will eventually be updated in what will be a $7 million renovation in total.

Florida Street Holdings also has retained a new local real estate firm to market the property, Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate. Michelle Casi, who handled marketing and leasing of the building in-house for several years, has joined Saurage Rotenberg. The firm plans to open a new leasing office on the ground floor of the building next week.

The investment in the building comes in the wake of a foreclosure lawsuit between the owners and their lender, which was settled last August, and is long overdue, according to local real estate experts. The downtown office market is increasingly competitive, and new office space along the river—the IBM complex and the Water Campus buildings—have poached some downtown tenants from their longtime digs.

But Casi says Chase South Tower will remain competitively priced at around $20 per square foot, and that renderings of the upgrades are already helping to generate interest.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries,” she says. “We have a lot of deals in the works.”

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Michele Casi has been practicing commercial real estate since 1996.  Michele was the owner/ broker of Casi Real Estate LLC for many years and joined Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate in 2017, specializing in the sale and leasing of commercial real estate.  She has an extensive background in management and disposition of Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) portfolios for major companies such as Trammell Crow CompanyBrookfield Asset Management and as an Associate Director for Jones Lang LaSalle.  Michele holds an Associate Broker’s license in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as a Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).

Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate is a member of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce (BRAC); the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce; the Baton Rouge Better Business Bureau; the Louisiana Commercial Data Base (LACDB); and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Several agents, on an individual basis, are members of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors® (SIOR), the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM); the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR); and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® Commercial Investment Division (CID).