Tag Archives: buildings

Suicide at TN Tower raises security questions

Security issues were raised by a recent suicide at Tennessee Tower, located across the street from the state Capitol, reports WSMV TV.

Police identified the man as Anton Kanevsky, 26, who was visiting Nashville from New York. A state worker saw his body fall past his office window one morning.

Police said Kanevsky left his keys, phone and sandals on the roof before leaping to his death on the plaza 31 stories below.

His family may never know why, but many people want to know how a traveler from out of state got onto the roof of the building.

Kanevsky’s social media profiles show he is from East Meadow, NY, and fluent in Russian. He kept an online travel journal and chronicled his brief few days in Nashville on Facebook. He was looking for work.

Kanevsky stayed at a hostel in downtown Nashville. He had no obvious connections to anyone at the Tennessee Tower.

Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.

Employees must scan their ID to get into Tennessee Tower. Visitors must sign in and show a photo ID. It’s not clear if Kanevsky got to the roof through an elevator inside the building or if he found another way.

The tower is currently having work done on its top floors and roof. There is an outside elevator that’s supposed to be for construction workers, so it’s possible Kanevsky rode that.

Wellspring Builders, the general contractor, referred Channel 4’s questions to the state. The General Services administration would only say it’s under investigation.

On the Cordell Hull building’s $100M remake for legislators

Excerpt from a WPLN report on renovation of the Cordell Hull building, which will become home for the Tennessee General Assembly next year.

The Cordell Hull Building rises nine stories and stretches about the length of a city block.

Built in a simplistic style popular in the early 1950s, it might not look like much. But its limestone exterior gives it a stolid feel, and inside there are rose-colored marble finishes quarried right here in Tennessee

“So I think it’s kind of exciting that it might have a use where the public gets to go in it more often and really appreciate it’s beauty — the interior beauty of the building,” (the Metro Historical Commission’s Tim) Walker says.

An architectural gem — that’s how state officials and preservationists talk about the Cordell Hull Office Building.

Four years ago, the office block next to the state Capitol was slated for the wrecking ball. Now, Tennessee is spending $100 million dollars to save it.

Renovation work on the Cordell Hull began last month and is expected to take until the fall of 2017 to complete. When it’s finished, it’ll become offices for state lawmakers, who plan to abandon their longtime home in Legislative Plaza.

It’ll thrust into the public eye a structure that up to now has really only been seen by government workers.

Many in Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration were ready to see it torn down four years ago.

But now… It’s a grand old building,” says John Hull, the head of the state of Tennessee’s real estate management operation. (He’s no relation to the building’s namesake.) “We think it’s a value, actually, to renovate this old building and keep its character the way it is.”

Hull says people familiar with the Cordell Hull will recognize the building after it’s renovated. Although it’s being stripped to the plumbing and retrofitted with legislative offices, its signature traits — like its marbles — will be left in place.

But some changes will be made.

A tunnel will connect the Cordell Hull to the base of the Capitol. The state says it’ll provide access for people with disabilities. The building will also be expanded with the addition of ground-floor hearing rooms. Conceived as a workspace for state workers, the Cordell Hull building had no meeting spaces large enough for a legislative committee.

Cost of new UT building increasing (construction time, too)

The State Building Commission last week has approved another $4.14 million increase in spending on the University of Tennessee’s new Student Union complex in Knoxville, according to the News Sentinel. The new total cost figure: $181.74 million.

When the commission first approved the project in 2008, its cost was estimated at $116.6 million. But that was before the Recession settled in, cutting state revenue and delaying the project for more than three years. It was also before design plans were approved and construction bids were opened.

By the time its design was approved in 2011 and its size increased by 30 percent, to 390,000 square feet, the cost was pegged at $160 million. In 2012 it jumped to $167.6 million. In July 2015, the commission approved a $10 million increase, to $177.6 million, to cover the costs of “unforeseen abatement, poor soil conditions, utility relocation, user-requested design changes and for awarding bids that are higher than were estimated,” according to minutes of the meeting.

When demolition of the old University Center parking garage started in March 2012, finally marking the start of work, UT said it would take about four years — to 2016 — to complete the entire project, to be built in two phases.

The target for overall completion is now during the spring of 2018.

Budget surplus brings stampede of money requests

Using a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga request for $37.9 million as a starting point, Andy Sher runs through some of the big spending requests coming from most everyone in state government nowadays with an apparent budget surplus of more than $500 million available for special allocation.

Everyone in state government is hungrily eyeing that half-billion-dollar-plus surplus and offering ideas about how some — or in one case nearly every dime — of it could best be put to use.

Ideas include using $260 million to repay the state’s transportation fund for money snatched from it by an earlier administration and diverted into the general fund… Secretary of State Tre Hargett, meanwhile, is advocating for $90 million to construct a new Library and Archives Building.

State department heads shared their ideas with Haslam last week during his annual public budget hearings.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is asking for $125 million to repair long-neglected facilities at state parks.

Some $55 million would go toward state park inns, golf courses, marinas and the like as the state seeks to outsource some operations to for-profit companies at 11 parks, including Harrison Bay State Park in Hamilton County.

Other agencies had their own notions. Most startling was a proposal from General Services Commissioner Robert Oglesby during his budget presentation.

In a state where existing building maintenance and improvements have traditionally been funded in year-to-year, haphazard fashion — if at all — Oglesby and his team boldly proposed putting everything on an annual funded basis.

That would cost $1.8 billion. But Oglesby is modest. He’s only asking for a partial down payment. Price tag — $528.98 million.

“You’re saying fix it all this year?” said an incredulous Greg Adams, the governor’s chief operating officer, as he tried to understand Oglesby’s presentation.

Asked later how UTC’s request might fare in this gargantuan universe of need, desire and surplus, Haslam waxed philosophical about the traditional division between one-time expenditures in, say, a building, and ongoing, year-in, year-out expenses in areas like education.

“[On] the nonrecurring, I think the good news is we have more opportunity than we’ve historically had due to the budget surplus,” the governor said. “The challenging news is there’s a whole lot of people who have ideas about how to spend that.”

There are “some very real needs,” Haslam noted, “some capital projects like the one you’ve mentioned at UTC that’s been waiting in line for a while and is a worthy project. And we have some of those both on the UT system and the Tennessee Board of Regents system.”

As put together by THEC, the nine top higher education priorities total some $455 million. THEC’s No. 1 project is $10 million. Just behind is UTC’s.

State ending Jones Lang LaSalle’s exclusive contract

The state of Tennessee will not extend a controversial contract with a private real estate firm and instead will throw the deal to negotiate government office space open to bidders, reports WPLN.

The Department of General Services has posted a request for information asking commercial real estate brokers to offer their plans to manage the state’s office leases. The move comes after state officials decided not to extend their contract with Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle past February.

“Well, we’ve learned some things from the time when this contract was originally let,” said state spokesman David Roberson. “And so I think we’re better informed now than we were at that time.”

The state’s relationship with Jones Lang LaSalle began four years ago, when the firm wrote a study that suggested the state sell several of its buildings and instead lease office space from private landlords. Months later, the firm was given the exclusive right to represent state agencies when they negotiated with those landlords.

Critics said the arrangement smacked of backroom dealing. State officials have defended the deal.

…Jones Lang LaSalle is free to bid on the new contract. But it’s unlikely it would become the state’s sole agent. Tennessee officials are considering spreading the right to represent state government among several firms, each with expertise in a different region of the state.

The state may also bring more of its lease management in-house. Roberson says the Department of General Services has hired four people in the last year with experience negotiating office leases.

UPDATE/Note: See also the Times-Free Press. Excerpt below.

JLL continues to hold a separate, competitively bid contract to run and maintain a number of state office buildings. That won’t be affected by the leasing change, Roberson said.

Haslam, meanwhile, is actively exploring outsourcing building management and maintenance for all state-owned structures, including higher education, prisons, hospitals and more. While administration documents point to a July 1 start date, state officials insist that no decision has been made.

Among the buildings JLL recommended closing were the Chattanooga State Office Building and James R. Mapp Building, both located on McCallie Avenue. They were too expensive to repair, maintain or both, the company said.

While JLL recommended leasing some buildings elsewhere in the state, in Chattanooga’s case, however, the company said it would be cheaper in the long-run to build a new building to replace the two it recommended closing.

The Haslam administration ignored that suggestion, with officials saying they didn’t want to be bothered with constructing a new building.

JLL earns commissions of up to 4 percent on each lease, which administration officials emphasize is paid by the building owner — not the state. However, officials concede building owners are free to up their price to compensate for the charge.

According to General Services, JLL has made $3.35 million in commissions on 19 buildings across Tennessee since May 2013 to mid-May 2015.

UT will repair building deemed too expensive to fix

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga got the go-ahead Tuesday to move forward with repairs to a former state government office building that a state consultant once said it wasn’t worth fixing, reports the Times-Free Press.

With little comment, State Building Commission members approved the UTC’s use of a previously approved $4 million to include additional work on replacing the building’s roof as well as exterior work on the structure, built in 1992. The $4 million, first approved in 2014, also includes funding to make the former Chattanooga State Office Building, located nearby, suitable for “surge space” use.

The money comes from $2 million in university reserve funds as well as an additional $2 million in Tennessee State School Board Authority bond issue in 2014.

…In 2013, Chicago real estate management firm Jones Lang LaSalle recommended the state get rid of six of its office buildings across Tennessee, including the James R. Mapp Building and Chattanooga State Office Building, because they were either structurally obsolete, too expensive to repair, or both.

The Mapp Building was deemed too expensive to repair as well as heat and cool. Moreover, it had a structural issue in one section. The cost for fixing problems was pegged at about $3.5 million.

…Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration now contracts with Jones Lang LaSalle to run 33 state buildings across Tennessee and the administration is looking at a new round of outsourcing its real estate management and maintenance.

But UTC, local governments and preservationists have a different sense of the worth of the some of the buildings than JLL had. Following an uproar by preservationists in Nashville, the governor was forced to reverse course on another building deemed functionally obsolete by JLL which the administration intended to raze. That was the historic Cordell Hull State Office Building across the street from the state Capitol.

And the Donnelley J. Hill State Office Building in Memphis, also deemed functionally obsolete, was recently purchased from the state by the city of Memphis for $1.6 million. The city is embarking on a $6.2 million renovation the structure.

Administration spin on JLL ‘cost avoidance’ lacking key figures?

The state agency in charge of running and maintaining state-owned buildings says that a contract for outsourcing those functions resulted in a “cost avoidance of $12.9 million” over the contract’s first two years, reports Richard Locker.

But that estimate is not based on a direct comparison of what the state spent on the same services before the facilities-management contract with Jones Lang LaSalle went into effect in 2013. Instead, the $12.9 million figure is what the company did not spend during the first two years, out of a specially constructed “benchmark” budget of $36.9 million per year for the contract, state officials acknowledged Thursday.

The number will be presented to a state legislative committee Tuesday in an update on the contract by the state Department of General Services. The agency’s deputy commissioner, John Hull, previewed the presentation to reporters on Thursday.

But Hull was unable to provide a direct comparison to what the state was spending on the same building operations work now provided by Jones Lang LaSalle. Hull called such a comparison “irrelevant” because the state created a new “benchmark budget plan” for building operations on which the contractor’s performance is judged — the $36.9 million figure.

…And the PowerPoint presentation given to media Thursday provided no figures to determine whether taxpayers are saving money because it contained no pre-contract figures, despite repeated requests for such figures by reporters. And because the presentation is essentially a “messaged” construct designed to justify the contract, without details of the contract’s spending, the presentation cannot be used in conjunction with the state budget document for fiscal year 2012-13 to determine a precise comparison.

State spending $493K to renovate ECD offices

While Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration moves toward outsourcing management and operations of all state-owned buildings, parks, prisons and college campuses with a goal of saving taxpayers money, it’s also spending $493,000 to renovate a single floor in a state office tower.

Further from Richard Locker:

That project will knock down walls, install a more open office layout and upgrade restrooms on the 27th floor of the Tennessee Tower state office building across the street from the State Capitol. The floor houses the headquarters of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and was where the governor himself worked for eight months in 2012 during a major renovation of the Capitol.

The project is the first of several similar “alternative workplace solutions” renovations planned by the same small cadre of contracted consultants and top-level state employees also running the governor’s controversial real-estate outsourcing initiative, which would turn over the management and operations of all state-owned property — including college campuses — to a private-sector contractor.

Operating under the direction of Haslam’s appointed chief operating officer, Greg Adams, the “Office of Customer Focused Government” has four projects underway: the overall facilities management outsourcing initiative; the “alternative workplace solutions” effort focused on consolidating office space; an energy efficiency project; and a separate effort on “real estate process improvements.”

The Building Commission, which is controlled by legislative rather than executive branch appointees, delayed action earlier this month on the request to approve and expedite the project — but then approved it without discussion on Monday.

…(General Services Commissioner Bob) Oglesby told the commission (earlier) the project was “specifically requested” by ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd to increase productivity of his agency. Boyd, a Knoxville businessman, headed Haslam’s efforts to increase the number of Tennesseans with college degrees and post-high-school certificates until the governor appointed him ECD commissioner in January.

Estimated taxpayer savings from JLL contract dropping

Estimated taxpayer savings from private management of state buildings by Jones Lang LaSalle have declined from $18.8 million per year initially to around $5 million per year now, reports WTVF TV.

JLL officials convinced the administration to outsource office buildings in 2013 after the state paid the company a million dollars to study the condition of those buildings. A slide prepared by JLL showed the “expected results” would be savings of $18.8 million a year — $94 million over five years.

(Later JLL projected savings of $13 million per year, then $10 million per year and, still later, $8 million per year, the article reports.)

A JLL spokesperson first acknowledged in one email (this week) that the true savings were now $5 million a year, then he came back in a second email and said it’s more like $6.5 million.

The Tennessee State Employees Association has now called for an independent audit to determine which, if any, of those numbers are real..

…David Roberson, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of General Services, said in an email: “It’s important to remember that, with all the figures you mention, we’re dealing with projections and estimates made at various times over a period of several years, and numbers are revised as more accurate data are available.”

Here is the statement from JLL:

“Through the second year of the outsourced facilities management program, total savings is $12.9 million. With continued modernization and maintenance of building systems, energy savings will increase year over year and become a primary driver of overall projected savings of $40 million over the five-year term of the program.”

Outsourcing plan hits a snag in Chattanooga

About 80 state employees are still working in the Chattanooga State Office Building more than a year after it was scheduled for closure under a Jones Lang LaSalle management plan, reports the Times Free Press. Some think that’s an indication that one of Gov. Bill Haslam’s earlier privatization efforts isn’t going well as the administration looks to a big expansion of outsourcing.

Employees started moving in April, 2014. Most of those remaining work for the Department of Correction.

It was almost exactly a year ago — Sept. 17, 2014 — that a state General Services official told the Times Free Press by email that the department “expected in about six weeks” to issue a request for proposals to find office space for the local Correction Department staff.

Ten days ago, on Sept. 4, a request for proposals finally was issued. The very same day, General Services issued a separate request soliciting local office-building owners to submit proposals to house employees with three other state agencies still in the Chattanooga State Office Building.

Those are the Tennessee Attorney General’s Chattanooga office, the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

Asked about the delays, General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby last week acknowledged “we’re still trying to find an adequate location [for] those people. I believe [the issue] is the Department of Correction tenant, so to speak. And they’re not suitable for all locations.”

For the Correction Department, that’s due at least in part to one simple fact: Among department employees are parole officers whose job is dealing with released felons, including sex offenders.

…In its initial study of state buildings, Jones Lang estimated it would cost $8.75 million to address repair issues at the Chattanooga State Office Building, with the bulk of the cost going for heating and air conditioning system replacement. Jones Lang actually recommended the state construct a new building. But the Haslam administration opted instead to find private leased space.

Jones Lang, now in charge of finding landlords for many departments, gets a 4 percent commission on each lease.

Meanwhile, Haslam is looking at outsourcing of real estate, energy management and building operations for almost all state-owned buildings including state parks, prisons and Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. Campus workers and Democratic lawmakers are in an uproar over that.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said Sunday the experience at the Chattanooga State Office Building with the Department of Correction doesn’t speak well of the administration’s attempt at further outsourcing.

Having “the old building operating at the same level, it’s not productive,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s obvious they’ve not thought this through. I think they have to realize that some things that government has to do are just different from the private sector and you can’t expect to let the private sector make money off it. And I think that’s been proved time and time again.”

John M. Hull, General Services’ deputy commissioner and head of the State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management, attributed delays to the department “trying to find the unique needs of every agency within the Chattanooga area. There were so many agencies within that building, we just did it in chunks essentially.”