Plans to demolish the historic Cordell Hull Building downtown aren’t set in stone, according to the governor’s office.
The Haslam administration plans to reassess plans to tear down the nearly 60-year-old structure sitting across the street from the Capitol Building, Chief of Staff Mark Cate told members of the legislative Fiscal Review Committee Tuesday.
“Quite frankly, we understand there is a lot of interest in this building,” said Cate who called the Cordell Hull building “functionally obsolete” and “inefficient operationally” from a business standpoint.
“Because of the interest in this building and because of the importance of its location, again its perceived historical nature, we think it’s probably wise to have yet another set of eyes on this again,” said Cate.
He said the goal is still to move employees out of the building but to assess whether it can be used for another purpose, although he warned the $24 million estimated price tag for repairs to the building, plus $13 million for nearby Central Services, will likely climb.
The administration announced plans earlier this year to demolish the building originally built in 1954. While the facilities would cost $37 million to repair, demolition would cost nearly $25 million.
The announcement to re-review Cordell Hull came as Cate defended a controversial state contract with repeatedly increasing costs with Jones Lang Lasalle, a Chicago-based real estate company the governor at one time invested in. JLL stands to benefit if the state keeps the building open, although JLL initially recommended its demolition, according to Cate.
The state awarded JLL a $1 million contract in 2011 to outsource management of state buildings — including Cordell Hull — although the agreement was amended five times by last March. In May, the state awarded the company a five-year $38 million contract to manage state-owned and state-leased properties except those operated by universities. The JLL deal includes a maximum of $330 million liability to the state for pass through costs like power, custodial work and security.
“In hindsight, would we have done this differently? Absolutely,” said Cate who said the state had $1 million initially appropriated for the contract, although the idea was the company would take on much more responsibility although money was not readily available.
In light of questions about ties between JLL and the governor and repeated edits to the state’s agreement with the real estate firm, the legislature’s House and Senate speakers called for hearings to evaluate the contracts, including others over vehicle repair and rental services.