By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — The new Camellia Center, now under construction in front of Ochsner Medical Center-North Shore, is expected to become home to a new Hooter’s restaurant at the prime Gause Boulevard location near I-10.
The Camellia Center is expected to open Phase I of its retail space by July 1, with a Wingate by Wyndham hotel located to the back of the 8.5 acre piece of property.
Brian Reine of Reine Construction is heading the new strip shopping mall for Slidell, however, Leasing Agent Stacy Nikolas could not confirm this week that Hooter’s was coming here.
“We do have a nationally-known restaurant that we have signed to a lease, but we are still not able to confirm the name yet,” she said.
Sources to The Slidell Independent reported the restaurant will be Hooter’s, a national chain that has over 450 restaurants across the country. The holdup to confirming the plans to build at the Camellia Shopping Center still revolve around securing final permits for construction.
TCBY, a soft-serve yogurt store, will be among the first businesses to open in the center, and will be joined by Reine Diamonds and LA Nail, Hair & Spa.
TCBY has set a grand opening with the East St. Tammany Chamber for Tuesday, July 10, then will host a grand opening for the public on Saturday, July 14 when anyone visiting the store will get a four-ounce cup of yogurt for free. The TCBY is owned by John and Patricia Ploen, who currently operate a TCBY in Metairie.
The Hooter’s restaurant had initially considered the Camellia Center, but backed out in the early months of construction, before returning to sign a lease.
Nikolas said she had interest from 42 different restaurants, and had 10 companies send representatives to Slidell to visit the area to see first-hand what the city had to offer.
She admitted the Camellia Center is in direct competition with the Summit Fremaux development, not far down Interstate 12, which has major tax incentives that are helping that location, not to mention over $15 million in infrastructure work that was assisted by the city and parish.
“The Summit has proven to be a problem for smaller developments like ours, and probably for other available leasing space, since they have all these tax incentives that help in trying to make deals,” she said. “So we feel pretty good about what we have done here, without any tax incentives, bonds or anything.”
The Wyngate hotel is expected to open by January, 2013, then an office building will start construction “probably later this year or early next year,” Nikolas said.