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Stone Pigman’s Susan Talley Receives Impact Award from Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network

Leading real estate group recognizes Ms. Talley’s work on Benson Tower/Champions Square project – firm shares honors with U.S. Risk Management for combined role on downtown development

Recognizing her key role in a major redevelopment project that is reviving New Orleans’ downtown business district in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network has given one of its coveted Impact Awards for 2010 to Stone Pigman partner Susan Talley.

The CREW Network Impact Awards are given annually to a short list of women who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and success in commercial real estate – the organization represents some 8,000 industry professional across 73 chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

Ms. Talley shared this year’s CREW Network Impact Award for Economic Improvement with Tracey Dodd, CEO of environmental services firm U.S. Risk Management. They were recognized for their work in the redevelopment of Benson Tower and Champions Square.

“This public-private endeavor is reinvigorating an entire area of the City of New Orleans,” CREW Network noted in issuing the award. The project is also “providing much needed office space for displaced State workers and is creating a sports and entertainment district to anchor one end of Poydras Street, an important downtown corridor. When not being used on game days or for other entertainment events in the Superdome or New Orleans Arena, Champions Square will ultimately provide open space and food and retail amenities to workers in nearby office buildings and the City’s medical complex.”

Co-chair of Stone Pigman’s real estate group, Ms. Talley is a lead member of the firm’s team representing Zelia, LLC, a partnership formed by the family of Tom Benson, longtime owner of the New Orleans Saints. Ms. Talley advised Zelia in the acquisition and financing of the mixed-use project once known as Dominion Tower and New Orleans Shopping Centre. The 26-story Benson Tower is being renovated to house offices for state employees, the majority of whom had been displaced from their offices following Hurricane Katrina, and for additional private tenant office space.

In addition, Zelia leased the adjoining former mall and parking garage to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED), which is developing Champions Square, to include retail, food and entertainment venues adjacent to the Superdome. LSED is the state agency that owns and operates the Louisiana Superdome.

The project further includes the LSU Health Services clinic, housed in a former Lord & Taylor store. The clinic will serve the community pending completion of a new LSU teaching hospital.

On completion of the renovations to Benson Tower by the end of 2010, it is estimated that Zelia will have invested at least $85 million in the project, with an additional $13.5 million committed to the Champions Square development. The costs of acquisition and development came through a combination of equity funding, lender finance and a series of New Markets Tax Credit financing transactions.

In addition to its long-term benefit in energizing downtown, the Benson Tower/Champions Square project offers some extra economic icing for the city – or what Stone Pigman’s Ms. Talley called lagniappe, a favorite Louisiana expression for “a little something extra”. As a result of this extraordinary partnership among the city, the LSED, the State and the Saints football team, the NFL owners designated New Orleans to host the Super Bowl in 2013.

“We are immensely grateful to CREW for selecting Stone Pigman and U.S. Risk Management to share this year’s Impact Award for Economic Improvement,” Ms. Talley said. “It’s no exaggeration to call the New Orleans Centre and Benson Tower redevelopment a championship caliber project. It came at a particularly important time for the City of New Orleans, in the aftermath of Katrina, and will be a major catalyst for revitalizing shopping, entertainment and business downtown. The principals – from the Benson family to the LSED, the city, the State, the project lenders, the Saints and all the local businesses involved – have made an unprecedented commitment to this vital economic development initiative. We congratulate Tracey Dodd’s firm and all of our lawyers who have contributed to this development effort.”

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