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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Fairmont Tower Renovation


Fairmont Apartments is undergoing a major modern upgrade, while still keeping some of the original charm and finishes.

Updates, upgrades and retro designs for 70-plus year-old building

Can something be old and new?

By the end of the year, we will know.

Fairmont Apartments, inside Fairmont Tower (726 Cotton St., Shreveport), is in the middle of a major renovation – and that’s an understatement. In this affordable housing complex, the accommodations have been less than adequate for years.

“The building is over 50 years old,” said Wendy Benscoter, executive director of Shreveport Common. “Over the years, it’s really declined. 254 units of smaller sized apartments. High-density without really any outdoor space. Over the years, it got to the point where it needed someone to come in and rescue it.”

That someone was Midland Capital Partners, LLC, particularly principal owner Michael Packard. Last Oct. 31, the Rhode Island-based company purchased Fairmont Tower for $6.575 million. They began work the next day. The building is being gutted, and apartments are being remodeled. Packard estimates construction costs will be $22 million when all is done. Including “soft costs,” such as attorney and consultant fees, the entire project could cost $60 million.

“We’re trying to walk the line between something that would be very nice that you would see anywhere else in the city and something that will be very durable for the long term,” Packard said. “We’re trying to keep the apartments as true to their original design as possible, so a lot of the original finishes are still in the apartments. The design layout is the same, but they’ve been upgraded with high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, Energy Star appliances, stainless steel finishes in the appliances, and granite countertops. (Granite countertops) are a luxury item, but also a very durable item, so they will last long term, as opposed to 10 years with a regular countertop.”

The renovation is being done floor-by-floor.

Some residents will move from their original apartments to “new” apartments within the next few weeks. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Packard, on-site every couple of months, is well aware of Fairmont Tower’s past.

“It’s a significantly historic building, built back in 1952. It used to be the tallest building in North Louisiana and was the first apartment building in Louisiana, or at least northern Louisiana, with air conditioning.”

Packard intends to preserve as much of that history as possible.

“We pay particular attention to the historic nature, the finishes, and the way it was constructed originally, to stay as true to the design as possible. In addition, where we do make changes in the building – maybe repairing work that had been done in subsequent years that may not be historic – as much as possible, we try to bring it back to its original historic nature. A good example would be replacing flooring that was installed in the 1980s and was popular at the time with something that is more period correct for the 50s.”

Midland Capital Partners has pursued similar endeavors across the country, including several projects in Louisiana. The company had recently completed a project in Springhill when it closed on the Shreveport sale and was working on a project in Vivian when it bought Fairmont Tower.

“It made a lot of sense to us geographically,” Packard said. “We thought it (Shreveport) was a great city, a good project and a deserving project, so we decided to go forward with it.”

“The owners have a lot of experience in bringing affordable apartment developments like this up to higher standards,” Benscoter said. “We’re really excited about that. Just because somebody needs a little assistance with rent doesn’t mean they should live in a building that doesn’t have all the amenities we would want for someone in our family.”

Packard and his company saw the need for affordable housing in Shreveport, particularly in this part of Shreveport.

“If you’re trying to revitalize downtown, you’re trying to get people to move in,” Packard explained. “There are several market rate luxury apartments complexes in the city, some of which are historic buildings. That’s great, but if you don’t have the ability for the people who work in the restaurants, the young teachers who teach in the schools, or the police officers who patrol the streets… if they can’t live in the city, it makes the city less able to function, and it makes it harder for the other projects to be successful.”

Benscoter believes this is more than a business venture for Fairmont Tower’s new owners.

“They understand what Shreveport Common is all about. They want to be a part of that.

They want to incorporate the Shreveport Common goals of creating an uncommon cultural community. They think that’s going to lift the property as well.”


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