Lawmakers to be asked to complete building

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News,Business

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A cash-infusion from the Legislature for the buildout of the rehabbed Robert G. Clark Jr. Building in downtown Jackson is state government's best hope for relief from an office space squeeze that has it down to 4,000 square feet of spare space.

The Clark building would raise the state's available office space by 50,000 square feet, according to the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

Workers have completed the structural and external renovations.

Once legislators allocate the money, the interior work can be completed within 12 months, DFA spokeswoman Sherri Hilton said.

"We are hopeful that funding for the tenant buildout will be approved during the 2015 legislative session," Hilton said in an email.

"The project is in the substantial completion' mode, which means heat, A/C, water and electricity are available now and all that remains is to put up interior walls, ceilings, floors and lighting."

The Mississippi State Personnel Board left the Clark building a couple years for leased space at Regions Plaza. In the interim, the DFA's Mississippi Management and Reporting System office is using space on four floors for MAGIC training classes. MAGIC is the new statewide accounting system that will go live July 1.

Some agencies now in the Robert E. Lee building want to relocate to the rehabbed Clark building, said Hilton. Those moves could open up space at the Lee building, where only 4,000 square feet is vacant.

Around 6,000 square feet will soon open up at the Woolfolk building with the departure of the Department of Banking and Consumer Finance. The department is looking to double its space to accommodate bank examiners who can now work remotely but previously had to go to banks they examined. An RFP specifies leased building in Metro Jackson of around 12,000 square feet with 85 parking spaces.

The department expects to be in its new quarters soon.

Meanwhile, landlords in downtown Jackson are hoping the state will eventually follow the recommendations of a Millsaps College's ELSE School of Management study that says the state could shave around $5 million a year off its current $16 million annual leasing costs by consolidating its office use into the Jackson Central Business District.

The bulk of the savings would come from reducing the average square-feet of office space per state employee from a current 321 to the federal benchmark of about 221.

About 690 state employees occupy 221,245 square foot of office space under 26 different leases in Metro Jackson outside the several-mile Capitol Complex.

State Sen. David Blount, a Jackson Democrat and chairman of the Senate Property Committee, has proposed the consolidation the past two years. The bills easily passed the Senate but died in the House without a vote, an outcome credited to Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton and other Jackson metropolitan area House members not wanting state workers to be relocated from their districts.

Blount proposed moving the far flung state offices into leased space in eight privately owned office buildings in the Jackson Central Business District, which in total has about 471,000 square feet of empty space.

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Information from: Mississippi Business Journal, http://www.msbusiness.com

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