Federal City to rise on the banks of the Mississippi

Mixed military/civilian facility is boon for IT providers, tenants

The Naval Support Activity facility at the Algiers Naval Base in New Orleans is fighting its way back — first from being targeted for closure by the Defense Department and then from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. In the process, it is being transformed into a high-tech government complex called Federal City.

With the support of city, state and congressional leaders, the 200-acre project on the banks of the Mississippi River is opening new business opportunities for integrators and other government contractors for at least the next four to five years.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Mize is leading the Federal City project. Mize, a senior vice president at Apogen Technologies, is based in New Orleans. His initial voluntary effort and vision saved the facility from DOD’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) initiative.

Then Katrina came, and although the base did not suffer severe damage, the project went into a six-month hiatus because of more pressing needs to restore homes, schools and municipal services.

But Federal City gained new life when the Algiers Development District Board awarded Apogen a modest six-month, $46,000 consulting contract to pay for Mize’s services and get the project into high gear.

Mize calls it a win-win project that will provide work, housing and other amenities for about 4,500 base employees. He said local officials see it as a way to boost confidence in the overall recovery effort.

He said the project was initially expected to cost $200 million, including the cost of infrastructure improvements throughout the base. But because of BRAC, the Navy has reassigned many of its employees, “so we’ll have a few less tenants than what our maximum would have been,” Mize said. He said the project’s current ballpark figure is $160 million.

Mize and his staff are formulating project requirements to prepare for a bid solicitation. “We have to line up our master developer, and we have to refine our requirements more precisely before we do that,” he said.

Mize said Federal City officials are also negotiating with the Navy to lease its vacant offices. The next step, he said, will be to distribute requests for qualifications in the next two months. “That will be followed several months later by regular” requests for proposals, he added. “What we will be looking for probably is a master developer who would put together a team, and the technology organizations and components would be part of that team.”

According to the development plan, he added, offices will have state-of-the-art technology. With multiple tenants sharing costs, the complex will have fewer overhead expenses, Mize said.

He predicts construction will begin next spring and the first tenants will move in by late 2008 or early 2009. “Probably the biggest initial tenant will be the Marine Corps Reserve headquarters,” he said.

“What we’d like to do is not only have DOD [tenants] but also other related federal organizations here,” Mize said. “We’re excited about having a place where we can coordinate some security and homeland defense, both DOD” and the Homeland Security Department.

Bric-a-BRAC

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission has set a deadline of Sept. 30, 2008, for construction of the Federal City project to begin at the Algiers Naval Base in New Orleans. The Federal City plan involves:

  • About $200 million in buildings and infrastructure.

  • A public/private venture.

  • State-supported financing for construction.

  • Long-term leases to federal tenants at prices well below market rate.

  • State contributions of $50 million to $100 million in addition to construction financing as economic development investment.

  • If possible, the transition of vacated Defense Department properties to the state for development.

  • Source: Supportourmilitary.org.

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