• Holly and Smith Architects (based in Hammond, La.)
• Coe/Arquitectonica (Shreveport and Miami based firms)
• Coleman Partners/Eskew Dumez Ripple Architects (Baton Rouge and New Orleans based firms)
• Prevot/Grace-Hebert Architects (Shreveport and Baton Rouge based firms)
As with many things dealing with government, the wheels can turn slowly. This week’s activity got its start more than 25 years ago. Here is a short look at a portion of an interesting timeline beginning way back in 1994 with the ending of the lease on the Joe D. Waggonner Federal Building.
- 1994- The lease on 500 Fannin, the former Joe D. Waggonner (JDW) Federal Building, ends.
- 1997- Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Downtown Shreveport Development Corp. (DSDC) meet with the NWLA legislative delegation to start the process of determining if the state offices can be moved downtown. Freshman legislator Cedric Glover is a part of these initial meetings.
- 1997- DDA sends a letter to Roger Magendie, Director of Administration Facility Planning & Control, providing information on JDW building. A tour, floor plans and estimated costs of asbestos remediation follow.
- 2000- state officials visit downtown and tour downtown properties, including JDW.
- 2000- DSDC signs option to purchase JDW for $1m.
- 2001- DSDC3 is created with the goal of relocating governmental entities, specifically, the state office building, to downtown Shreveport.
- 2002- Mark Drennen, Commissioner of Administration under Governor Mike Foster, alerts DDA that the state ‘does not see benefit’ at this time of moving agencies to downtown.
- 2004- DDA resumes conversation with state about a possible move to downtown.
- 2008- Interest is renewed. DDA meets with Billy Wilson, the director of the Office of State Buildings about a possible move.
As the years passed, interest in moving the state office building downtown ebbed, flowed, waned or waxed depending on the fiscal situation of the state, who sat in the governor’s seat and actions taken here at home. A promising turn came in 2012 when the state conducted a feasibility study for consolidation of state agencies and office facilities in the Shreveport area. The Jones, Lang, LaSalle report once and for all settled both the feasibility and good sense of such a move. Representative Cedric Glover saw that Baton Rouge was reaping a windfall in their downtown due to state investment in buildings and parking garages. The state improvements and increased foot traffic incentivized private investors to also spend money, build and rehabilitate. Growth came relatively quickly. Rep. Glover said the change to downtown Baton Rouge was ‘profound’ between his first- and second- stints at the statehouse.
Though the move of the state offices in Shreveport made common and fiscal sense, no good idea can move forward without consensus and support. Unwavering support came in the form of one time Shreveport City Councilman (1990-96), State Representative (1996-2006), and Mayor (2006-2014) Glover who returned to the Louisiana Legislature in 2016- present. For the duration of his terms holding various elective offices, Glover stressed the importance of the state office move downtown, and when the JDW building came available in 2013, he knew that the state not only had the means, it finally had the perfect location. Roughly a year and a half ago, he found an ally in this game of high stakes negotiating in State Senator Robert Mills, who saw the fiscal benefit in the repurposing of the former Waggonner building, and the move as a benefit to northwest Louisiana as a whole.
Though the plan made sense and saved the state a significant amount of money, there were those who did not support it. “It was a strange deal,” Mills said. “There were a lot of battles behind the scene.” “It’s like my grandfather used to say,” says Glover. “It takes a genius to build a barn, but a jackass can knock it down.”
It had gotten to the point for Glover and Mills that doing nothing on the state building in Shreveport was not an option, and they would not back down.
It is a classic tale of hard work and never-say-die effort. “To expect to be successful at something, you have to be transparent,” says Glover, “and be relentless.”
THAT could be the moral of this long story, or its headline. ‘Relentlessness Wins.’ We are thankful for all those who refused to relent, and continued, in the face of adversity, to continue to push a good idea forward.
Original Story, April 21, 2022
The Times broke the story this week that the State of Louisiana offices currently housed at 1525 Fairfield Avenue will be moving downtown to a building that will – in effect- be all new construction at 500 Fannin Street. We are thrilled to welcome the 400+ employees and to see the State’s downtown ownership expand.
Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told Times’ reporter Makenzie Boucher, “We are pleased that we’re gonna be able to move forward with this. The building that we’re in right now we have had to pour a lot of money into it just to maintain it and the employees of Shreveport deserve a much better facility within which to work.”
A lot of consideration went into the decision. The current state building is 1940s vintage and is going to require significant investment soon for repairs and upgrades. The state already owns, manages and maintains the Second Circuit Court of Appeal at 430 Fannin, a building that is adjacent 500 Fannin. Because of the proximity of the two structures, the state could save money and manpower on property management.
There are many reasons why the decision to move the offices is a good one, but it did not come easily, or quickly. A timeline compiled by Downtown Development Authority and the non-profit Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation show that DDA/DSDC had been working on the move since early 1997, more than 25 years.
Early DDA/DSDC conversations with the state centered on a variety of options, including new construction. Focus briefed lingered on the former Joe D. Waggonner building in 2000, but returned in earnest in 2019. During the years since, DDA, DSDC, the Shreveport City Council and the Caddo Parish Commission all sent Resolutions supporting the state office move to downtown and Mayor Adrian Perkins met with and talked with state officials on several occasions. In the fall of 2021, DSDC contributed $10,000 to have a structural report on the Joe D. Waggonner building updated to assist in the State’s decision.
There’s a saying that ‘Good things happen to those who wait.’ While possibly true, we believe the additional ‘Better things happen to those who work for it.’ A lot of people have been working for this for a long time, and we hope to share some of those kudos in the weeks and months to come.
In the meantime, the State is doing all the things the State needs to do to move the process forward. Stay tuned!