Federal City Featured in Times-Picayune

21 September 2009

Woodward Design+Build’s work on the Federal City project is underway.

The Times-Picayune

‘Federal city’ takes shape in Algiers

The Times-Picayune

18 September 2009

The transformation of the Naval Support Activity in Algiers into a “federal city” campus for military, government and private agencies is solidly under way with the footprint for the national headquarters for Marine Forces Reserve, the project’s anchor tenant, taking shape.

A year ago, local leaders and Navy officials signed the final documents setting the stage for the active construction site, where concrete slabs are being poured over 2,600 pilings, and by December, project officials expect the exterior walls will be standing four-stories tall overlooking Opelousas and Hendee streets.

Contractor Woodward Design+Build of New Orleans expects the 417,000-square-foot headquarters compound to be occupied by Sept. 15, 2011, the federally mandated deadline by which the command’s 1,900 Marines and civilian personnel must move in.

“We’re on track, feeling excited about the prospects and delivering what we said we’re going to deliver, “ said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Mize, who is spearheading the federal city development.

Using $150 million provided by the state Department of Economic Development, federal city planners are constructing facilities for the command and the Marine Forces Reserve Band, which embedded a conductor’s baton and two Marine Corps coins in concrete for its building last month.

Developers envision that over 15 years, federal city will attract other government agencies and private businesses to the campus, ultimately bringing 10,000 jobs to Algiers.

The Marines have worked with the contractor and Mathes Brierre Architects of New Orleans for more than a year in designing the facilities to meet their needs and creating “a building that will be the envy of other Marine Corps commands, “ said Col. Bill Davis, assistant chief of staff for facilities at Marine Forces Reserve.

When construction is complete in June 2011, Marines will move out of their aging offices at Naval Support Activity’s east bank campus, where they work in facilities built in 1918 as an Army supply depot.
Susan Poag/The Times-PicayuneThe 72 concrete panels will be lifted by crane and secured to the slabs and to one another.

“The project is starting to visibly take shape, which has increased the level of anticipation and generating plenty of discussion in our current offices, “ Davis said. “The designs are pretty much set, and this building will provide significant improvements in our ability to operate as the headquarters for the Marine Forces Reserve.”

Architects and engineers suggested “tilt-wall construction,” Mize said, in which reinforced concrete panels that are 10 inches thick, complete with brick veneer and holes for windows, are fabricated on site. The 72 panels, each 10 feet wide and most 65 feet tall, will be lifted by crane and secured to the slabs and to one another.

“You’ll have no idea it wasn’t a stone kind of building,” Mize said.

The Navy and Defense Department announced in May 2005 it wanted to close the Naval Support Activity and move its military outfits to either the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse or elsewhere.

The Base Realignment and Closure recommendation called for the Marine Forces Reserve to move to the air station. But state and local officials sold a federal panel on the federal city concept. The Navy signed a 75-year lease with the Algiers Development District board Sept. 29, 2008, one day before a federal deadline to break ground or else the base would close.

The law calls for Naval Support Activity’s east bank campus at Bywater to close by Sept. 15, 2011. Most operations are moving to the air station, which is seeing about $183 million in construction partly connected to the BRAC round of 2005.

The BRAC round also called for the Marine Corps Mobilization Command to move to Algiers from Kansas City, Mo. That move has begun, with “several dozen” Marines being transferred to New Orleans this year, Davis said. By the time the Marine Forces Reserve compound is complete, the command’s 300 personnel will have relocated to the West Bank.

Meanwhile, construction on the $21.5 million, 53,000-square-foot Coast Guard Sector New Orleans headquarters, adjacent to the federal city site, is about one-third complete, said Lt. Cmdr. John Barresi, the Coast Guard’s director of Gulf Coast reconstruction.

The facility, where about 300 Coast Guard personnel will work, is expected to be finished by May 2010, he said. Already, the concrete skeleton rises three stories, and construction on interior spaces began last week, Barresi said.

While the the Coast Guard building at the foot of Hendee Street is not part of federal city, Mize said discussions are under way for the agency and the Marine Corps to share security responsibilities, meaning the facilities would not be separated by a fence.

Construction is under way on about 14 acres of the total 149 acres that developers HRI/EEC LLC of New Orleans will get on Sept. 15, 2011, when the Navy turns over the remaining acreage to group. At that time, the fence bordering Naval Support Activity will be removed, allowing public access to all of the installation except for the Marine Corps compound, Mize said. Only then can redevelopment of the base begin, he said.

Following a master plan currently being devised, the redevelopment is expected over 15 years, he said. Developers are exploring restaurants, a grocery, a charter high school with a maritime focus and space for Delgado Community College to expand its West Bank campus, Mize said.

“We’re confident we won’t be a ghost town when it opens up in September 2011,” Mize said.

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