Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bennett Building to Get Makeover

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bennett Building to Get Makeover

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis, Times-Union senior business writer

A $21 million renovation of the Charles E. Bennett Federal Building downtown could start in January.

As the building at 400 W. Bay St. is renovated, many of its agencies and employees will relocate to other leased space downtown, primarily the nearby 550 Water Street building.

The largest occupant, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will move separately to another downtown site that has not been announced. Moreover, the corps probably will remain in that space as it awaits potential funding approval to build a separate structure, possibly at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

The General Services Administration, which handles the space requirements for federal agencies, has not announced where the corps would go either temporarily or later, but we understand that the corps awaits funding for a potential new building.

The $21 million in renovations should upgrade the estimated 37-year-old federal building into a first-class office structure. Remodeling will include major upgrades to the common areas and to the building systems. The work could take 18 months.

While exempt from taxes, the property carries a market value of $45 million, according to the Duval County Property Appraisers Office.

The 10-story, 314,000-square-foot building houses offices for the Corps of Engineers, Internal Revenue Service, National Labor Relations Board, Department of Labor, Railroad Retirement Board and Savings Bonds.

All of the agencies will relocate into leased space downtown, where the office vacancy rate had risen to 14.3 percent in the first quarter, compared to 8.5 percent the year before. The moves will help plug some of that space temporarily as well as retain more than 1,300 workers downtown during the renovations.

The corps is the Bennett Building's largest occupant, with about 170,000 square feet of space and 765 jobs. …

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