Ravi Daggula, the owner of several historic properties near downtown Lafayette including the Mouton Plantation, The Nickerson House, and Esprit de Coeur, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss his journey.
He is also a Developer of the newly built Vermilion Lofts situated at Johnston and Vermilion Streets.
Ravi is a native of India. He moved to Lafayette to attend UL-Lafayette while he studied computer engineering. He has made Lafayette his home. Ravi’s interest in restoring historic properties and his dedication to offering beautiful event venues for downtown and North Lafayette is inspirational.
While he was originally encouraged by others to invest in Lafayette’s southside, Ravi felt his calling was to pour his energy into the northside. “I took it one step at a time. I wasn’t looking for other projects but other projects came to me!”
Ravi believes that once you hit 35 years of age, you will know your calling. After he graduated, he worked at several jobs and eventually realized that real estate was his calling.
He harkened back to his early days in the workforce, during 2003 and 2004, when he didn’t have a car and relied on cabs. His cab driver would shuttle him by the Mouton House to pick up more customers while Ravi was sleeping in the car. Once he was able to buy a vehicle he would still pass by the property because he liked it so much.
Fast forward to 2016, and his banker encouraged him to invest in a bed and breakfast because it would be a successful entity in this area. Given his love for the Mouton Plantation and finding out that the price was right, he realized this would be a good fit for investment. At that time, however, he was more into buying and flipping real estate.
Once he owned the Mouton Plantation though he also felt and saw the bigger picture, the bigger purpose in his life.
“The Mouton Plantation has made me be the man I am today. Lafayette has helped me be where I am. This is my way of giving something back. I didn’t know that at the beginning.”
The Mouton Plantation was built in 1820, one of the first five homes built in its genre that are still in existence in Lafayette. (Cafe Vermilionville’s structure is older.)
It was hard to run a bed and breakfast at the beginning, but “the house provided.” There is good energy in the house and most of Ravi’s meetings in the house were so successful that they led to other successful projects.
Ravi believes with historic properties, you are just a temporary caretaker of the house…..you hold the baton and at some point, you will pass on the baton to others.
He invites everyone to his properties with respect and dignity, especially descendants of plantation slaves who originally made the properties successful. You must listen to his words to understand the impact of his love and his heart for the best interest of others.
Very few people in our area know the history of the historic Sterling Grove neighborhood and Ravi encourages all to visit and learn more.
His second historic purchase was the Nickerson House and the owners knew of his intent to revitalize the area. The renovation is almost over, and Nickerson will be fully renovated by the end of September 2021. It is already booked through October, November, and December of this year. It offers seven acres of land for catered events and weddings.
When we spoke of how these historic properties have survived enumerable hurricanes and floods, Ravi explained that they were built in the “path of the wind” (to be able to withstand high force winds and not fight the winds) and are also located by the original railroad in Lafayette on high ground.
“The Cajuns never went for the bayous…they built where the mature live oak trees abounded. Because live oak trees can’t survive long with water standing on their roots.” There were no levees back then so it was wise to build where trees flourished.
You’ll have to listen to Ravi to hear his love of Lafayette’s and Louisiana’s initial settlors’ history and how streets named Simcoe and Mudd came to be named!
Ravi loves downtown Lafayette and believes that its future is on an incredible climb, hence his newest purchase of Esprit de Couer, his third event rental property. People can stay onsite and also have catered events. It is furnished to meet the Victorian period of its heyday. At Ravi’s currently opened properties, approximately 70% of his guests are from Europe so he employs multilingual employees to be able to adequately assist travelers in their own language.
As an entrepreneur, Ravi believes if COVID hadn’t caused an abrupt shutdown of opportunities, it could have just as easily been something else. “You just have to learn how to work around it.”
Everyone is welcome to visit the Nickerson House and sit down, drink coffee. No need for reservations or payment of a price. Go check it out! Ravi is determined to rally around his community and make them welcome at his properties. Also, any nonprofit is welcome to use his places for free; Ravi he wants to get that message out to the greater community that any nonprofit organization working to benefit our area may reach out to him to utilize his spaces for events.
Ravis is the Managing Partner of Vermilion Lofts developed by architect Stephen Ortego. The property is totally full today, except for one retail space downstairs. A new project is in the works across Johnston street from Vermilion Lofts. It will double the size of Vermilion Lofts with apartments and 10,000 square feet of commercial space, with a more contemporary look.
Ravi has another $25 million of projects planned for the next two years, not including the new project across from Vermilion Lofts.
Councilwoman Nanette Cook has encouraged Ravi and partners to develop properties near the Oil Center and one is in the works, to be announced in the near future.
Ravi believes it is important to be a good neighbor when revitalizing and developing properties. “Talk with them first, hear their concerns. Their home is their biggest investment. How would you feel if someone messed up the investment that you worked all your life for??? Share your ideas and let them express their concerns.” You won’t be successful if you make everyone around you mad.
A coordinated plan for developing Downtown Lafayette is a dream of Ravi Daggula. While he knows many people have worked on future development and he is a huge supporter of all of the work and vision of the Downtown Development Authority, he is hoping to see the government/administration get enthusiastically behind a vision of where our city will be in five and ten years. “Let’s not wait, let’s do it now.” He believes downtown is the only place that raises the most tax revenue per square mile in the parish. Downtown is closest to I-10, I-49, and has the infrastructure to flourish today.
A favorite quote from this interview: ‘If we don’t have a greater good that we work for, there is no good. I want to leave a legacy for Lafayette, that people will remember for the rest of their life. I encourage others to think of what role can they play?”
We thank Ravi Daggula for his love of Lafayette and investment in restoring our oldest, most historic properties.