Federal City Groundbreaking
30 September 2008
Today marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Federal City project in Algiers. Located on the grounds of the Naval Support Activity base, this new project will begin with the creation of a new facility for the Marine Forces Reserve. Woodward Design+Build is proud to have been a part of the team to bring this important project to fruition. Woodward will serve as the design builder and general contractor on the project.
Groundbreaking speakers included Mayor Ray Nagin, General David Mize, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator David Vitter, and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu to name a few.
Construction begins on Federal City in Algiers
1 October 2008
Calling it the latest evolution of a military presence in Algiers that dates back more than a century, state and local officials ceremonially began construction on the federal city project Tuesday.
“I believe the next 100 years will be as successful as the last, “ said Capt. Brian Harrison, an Algiers native who might be the last commanding officer of the Naval Support Activity before it is converted into a facility for military commands blended with commercial businesses.
Three years after the Defense Department announced it wanted to close the Naval Support Activity, officials heralded the federal city plan in a series of speeches before donning hard hats and taking up shovels to toss dirt. It was that plan that led a federal commission three years ago to allow the city and state to retain the Algiers base, with the caveat that they have financing in order and begin construction by Tuesday.
Had the deadline been missed, the base would have closed.
‘A long haul’
“We have won, and we have won big, “ said Mayor Ray Nagin, one of numerous elected officials to give speeches to a crowd of more than 100 gathered at the site where the Marine Forces Reserve compound will be built.
“It’s been a long haul, “ House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, a key player in the project, said after the ceremony.
Marine Forces Reserve, based in Bywater, is the only confirmed tenant and will bring more than 1,900 military billets and civilian employees to Algiers before 2011.
“We’re proud that Marine Forces Reserve can be the anchor tenant, “ reserve chief Lt. Gen. John Bergman said.
By many accounts, getting to Tuesday was not easy, as negotiations between federal city planners and the Navy floundered at times. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said federal city “most certainly has been a tough and most challenging project.”
Amid a near breakdown in lease negotiations this year, Landrieu and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., met with Navy Secretary Donald Winter to jump-start the process. Winter in turn told his deputy assistant for installations and facilities, Howard Snow, to “fix this, because it was dragging on too long, “ Snow said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
“This is good for the Marine Corps, “ Snow said. “It’s fantastic for the city and state.”
Counting on bonds
The state has pledged $150 million in bonds to pay for the Marine Corps compound, which the Navy will own in exchange for leasing 149 acres for 75 years. The Navy and state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers, signed the lease Monday.
“The state is delivering on its commitment, “ said Stephen Moret, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s economic development secretary.
Despite the nation’s troubled economy, bond underwriter Buck Landry of Morgan Keegan & Co. said he did not foresee problems with selling bonds that are backed by the state appropriations. The first of the bonds will be marketed in mid-October, he said.
While the construction cost has not yet been defined, the Marine Forces Reserve compound should cost more than $100 million to build, with the balance of state money used for infrastructure improvements, said Hal Fairbanks, director of acquisitions for Historic Properties Inc.
HRI, a New Orleans company that formed a joint venture with Environmental Chemical Corp., a California company, will oversee construction of the Marine Corps compound and open the remaining acreage for uses that benefit both the military and the community, Fairbanks said. The Marine Forces Reserve compound will include 411,000 square feet of building space and a parade field at Hendee and Opelousas streets.
Among ideas for the community area are a school and retail space, Fairbanks said. The development could be modeled after New Orleans’ Warehouse District, once an industrial area that today is home to about 2,500 residences, supported by businesses and museums, he said.
Carl E. Woodward, a New Orleans contractor, and Mathes Brierre Architects have been selected to design and build the Marine Corps compound. Construction should start in the spring.
The Navy bought land in Algiers overlooking the Mississippi River in 1849, but did nothing with the site until moving a dry dock there in 1901.
It was a naval station during World War II, where thousands of ships were supplied and hundreds were outfitted before going overseas. The base was designated a Naval Support Activity in the 1960s, and became home to the Naval Reserve headquarters in the 1970s. The Marine Corps Reserve headquarters moved there in the 1980s, housed in World War I era warehouse buildings.
Because of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Round, the Naval Reserve Forces Command moves to Norfolk, Va., by next year. The Marine Corps presence in the city will grow larger, however, in Algiers.
“This is a great, new chapter in the history of the military in our greater New Orleans community, “ Vitter said.