Change of plans: Renovate Cordell Hull building instead of demolishing it

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is backing off earlier plans to demolish the 60-year-old Cordell Hull office building located next to the state Capitol in Nashville and instead hopes to renovate it.

Bob Oglesby, the commissioner of general services, told the State Building Commission on Thursday that renovating the building would create space to house workers while other office buildings are overhauled in the future.

The original recommendation to demolish the building was made by consultant Jones Lang LaSalle, which said it would be cheaper to tear down than to fix up and maintain.

Oglesby said the long-term savings of using the building to house other state employees would offset some of the cost of estimated $70 million overhaul.

He also said the consultant’s study hadn’t been asked to take into account the key location of the building, which can be seen out the windows of the governor’s office in the Capitol.

“They treated that building the same as they would treat one in a suburb of another city,” he said. “They made no exception for the Cordell Hull being on Capitol Hill.”

Oglesby said the recommendation to keep the building does not change his opinion of related decisions to shutter state office buildings in Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

The Cordell Hull building has a capacity of about 1,000 workers, but only about one-third of it is occupied by state agencies like the attorney general’s office and the Department of Children’s Services. The work could be completed within two years, but how quickly the renovation completed depends on how much money is appropriated by the state.

Other options for the space include selling the building and land, erecting a smaller building on the site or converting the space into a parking garage. The panel did not take a vote on the recommendation to pursue the renovation.

Finance Commissioner Larry Martin said the recommendation reflects careful consideration surrounding the proposal to tear down the building.

“I don’t see it necessarily as an about-face as much as it is an evolution of our thinking and our understanding of what the various options are,” he said.