published Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Tennessee OKs closing of Chattanooga State Office Building and James R. Mapp Building

The state of Tennessee is seeking office space to relocate from the Chattanooga State Office Building on McCallie Avenue in downtown Chattanooga.
The state of Tennessee is seeking office space to relocate from the Chattanooga State Office Building on McCallie Avenue in downtown Chattanooga.
Photo by Staff File Photo.
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    The state of Tennessee is seeking to rent office space to move workers from the James R. Mapp Building.
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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NASHVILLE — The State Building Commission this week approved the "decommissioning" of the Chattanooga State Office Building and James R. Mapp Building as Tennessee officials prepare to lease up to 129,000 square feet of commercial space for state agencies.

Haslam administration officials hope to finish negotiations with local bidders for leased space Thursday so they can have a final recommendation for the building commission's executive subcommittee Aug. 19.

"That's what's outlined in the schedule," Peter Heimback, a General Services official, said this week.

Details including costs won't be made public until the recommendations are presented to the commission's executive committee, General Services officials said.

The Chattanooga State Office Building on McCallie Avenue and the nearby James R. Mapp Building are among five buildings the state is closing down. That's based on assertions by state consultant and contractor Jones Lang LaSalle that the structures are functionally obsolete or too expensive to repair and operate.

It's part of a much larger, controversial move by state government to consolidate office space that began with the outsourcing of state building management and leasing to Jones Lang LaSalle.

The firm stands to earn up to 4 percent commissions from landlords who lease to the state.

State officials project $200 million in savings over the next five to 10 years compared to operating its own buildings.

But decommissioning the five buildings -- two each in Chattanooga and Nashville, one in Memphis -- won't be cheap. That could hit $32.7 million, according to State Building Commission figures.

That includes an estimated $6.4 million to tear down the historic Cordell Hull building across the street from the Capitol. Those plans are temporarily on hold while the state seeks a second professional opinion on the move.

Heimback told reporters decommissioning "does several things."

"It basically shuts a building down so that it can be mothballed. It also provides for moving of people and resources and other things out of the building to alternate locations ... until a permanent location can be found."

He said the state may sell the Chattanooga buildings, transfer them to another state entity, or possibly sell them. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga officials, who have shown interest in the seven-story Chattanooga State Office Building, said they are negotiating with the state about a possible deal.

For replacement space in Chattanooga, General Services is studying seven lease proposals, including four by businessman Henry Luken, to house an estimated 400 state workers.

In other action, commission members approved a $200,000 grant to the Chattanooga Zoo for a giraffe exhibit as well as a $200,000 grant to the Tennessee Aquarium for installation of a new otter exhibit. Both grants were including in this year's budget. The commission had already approved the projects. Thursday's action formally approved the grants.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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