Mardi Gras businessman: Chiquita to rent warehouse

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Chiquita Brands International Inc. will ripen bananas in a 51,000-square-foot warehouse that the owners of Mardi Gras World and Blaine Kern Studios had bought to house Carnival floats, says Barry Kern.

         Kern, part of the ownership of both companies, told New Orleans CityBusiness’ Natalie Chandler lease negotiations are complete and lawyers are going over them.

         He would not disclose terms but said it's a long-term lease that reflects Chiquita's commitment to Louisiana.

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         Chiquita has agreed to stay in Louisiana at least 10 years.

         The warehouse is being made ready for Chiquita and he expects it to be fully operational by February, Kern said.

         He says it has about 25 percent more space than Chiquita requires.

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         The state and port are spending $2.6 million on structures to go in the warehouse to ripen the bananas. Louisiana Economic Development has provided $2.2 million and the port is paying the rest, according to port president and CEO Gary LaGrange.

         Kern said he's improving the building's lighting and offices. No significant changes needed to the warehouse and its parking area already has electrical hookups for trucks that will haul the fruit from the port's Napoleon Avenue Terminal, he said.

         Assessor's records show Kern bought the warehouse from Iron Mountain Inc. for $1.5 million. He said he had planned to store floats, tractors and supplies there, but a real estate broker who represents both Chiquita and Mardi Gras World proposed the lease.

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