Marine Corps moving into new facility at Federal City
15 June 2011
The new Marine Corps Support Facility, New Orleans is nearing completion at Federal City in Algiers, LA. A building dedication will take place on June 27 at 10:30am.
Marine Reserve headquarters marches into its $110 million home on the West Bank of New Orleans
15 June 2011
Giving the “Oorah” he applies to everything that strikes him as positive, Col. Bill Davis marveled at the newly installed red-brick pavers inlaid in a winding walkway leading up to Marine Forces Reserve’s new national headquarters in Algiers.
“When I was here last Friday, none of this was done,” Davis said Monday of the walkway, still flanked by mounds of dirt outside Marine Corps Support Facility, one of the branch’s newest installations.
With everyone from gardeners to heavy-construction workers working hard, and often into the evenings, the Marines are in their second week of moving into their 411,000-square-foot building overlooking Opelousas Avenue at Hendee Street. By June 24, Marine Forces Reserve expects its full-time work force of 1,300 people to be moved into their offices inside the 29-acre compound, most coming from the soon-to-be-closed Naval Support Activity at the foot of Poland Avenue.
“Thirteen-hundred people. Three weeks. No worries,” Davis said.
With the ongoing work clearly evident, it would appear the contractors are late. But construction is almost two months ahead of schedule, a rarity among the projects Davis, the Reserve’s chief of staff for facilities, oversees nationwide. The Marines began moving almost two months earlier than planned, and their focus has been on getting the building ready for occupation.
“We’ll worry about the grass and everything afterward,” Davis said.
Much of the remaining work involves the grounds, such as the pavers and landscaping, but getting the Marines moved in was the first priority, said Bob Lipscomb, contractor Woodward Design+Build’s supervisor on the project.
“We have stepped up the pace,” Lipscomb said. “We’re open for business, and we’re working 12-hour days right now.”
They’re also working against the June 27 deadline, when a dedication ceremony is planned. “We want it to look good,” Lipscomb said. “We want to be proud of it on the 27th. We will be proud of it.”
The 1,200-spot parking garage adjacent to the installation isn’t expected to be finished until July 1, and the 300 parking slots inside the support facility aren’t ready. That means staff in some cases must park blocks away inside the Naval Support Activity.
The state paid for the $110 million facility as part of an agreement with a federal panel in 2005, in the wake of the Navy and Defense Department’s recommendation to close the century-old Naval installation in Algiers. The decision paved the way for developers to create the Federal City campus with the Marines as their anchor tenant.
The state gave the building to the Marines last month, clearing the way for the move. The Marine Corps also spent $56 million furnishing and outfitting the facility with communications and equipment.
Carrying out the move has been a military operation. Marine Forces Reserve is the national headquarters for Reserve units and 187 Reserve sites nationwide. The command includes Marine Forces North, the Marine Corps’ piece of the U.S. Northern Command, whose mission largely is the Defense Department’s organizational response to homeland security.
So the commands have tried to maintain operations simultaneously at two sites during the transfer, mapping out details such as individual work stations and assigning corresponding phone numbers beforehand. Marines also tried to ensure a smooth transition, particularly with communications, said Col. Chris Schlafer, communications and technology chief for Marine Forces Reserve.
“If we have problems here, the 187 sites have problems,” said Schlafer, who estimated 600 people would be moved in Monday.
The compound includes a detached warehouse where all mail and shipments are opened, a consequence of stepped-up security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The site has an armory and generator power with enough fuel to keep electricity flowing for seven days during an emergency on the scale of a Hurricane Katrina. And the Marines have contingency plans in place if power outages last longer than seven days.
“We’re Marines,” Davis said. “In seven days, we’ll get it here.”
As a national headquarters, the building includes a full-fledged court, complete with attorney meeting rooms and a courtroom where courts martial involving Marines in the Reserve force will be held. “Wherever there’s a major violation of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), they will have to come here,” said 1st Lt. Dominic Pitrone, a public affairs officer.
The building also has a weight room with a closet-size sauna and a room for martial arts training, a requirement of all Marines.
The Marine Forces Reserve Band, which regularly marches in Carnival parades, also has a building, designed for musicians and built for performances. On Monday, the musicians were moving their instruments and other gear into their new spaces, about three blocks from where their quarters had been located.
“We’ve been packing up for the last couple of weeks, and we started moving in yesterday,” band officer CWO Mikal Laird said, adding that the Marines expected to begin playing music in the new building Tuesday.
Paul Purpura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3791.