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LABI sells Baton Rouge headquarters building, plans downtown move

August 2, 2017
By Stephanie Riegel
Originally Posted on Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has sold its office building on Valley Creek Drive, near College Drive and Interstate 10, and will be relocating to new downtown offices in September.

In a deal that closed in late July, LABI sold the 30,000-square-foot building that has housed its statewide headquarters since 1983 for $1.8 million to University View Academy, a virtual charter school that is rapidly expanding in the area and owns two other nearby buildings.

LABI will eventually move to 500 Main St., which is owned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and is currently home to Stantec engineering firm. LABI has signed a purchase agreement with BRAF to acquire the land and the building for $2.7 million. The deal is expected to close soon.

Stantec will remain as a tenant in the building under the terms of its current lease until a building at the Water Campus that will house its new offices is ready in late 2018 or early 2019.

LABI, meanwhile, will sublease 10,000 square feet of office space previously occupied by Albemarle in the Chase South Tower until Stantec moves out of 500 Main St.

LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack says the decision to relocate was not prompted by space considerations but, rather, by the desire to be downtown, closer to other LABI members and near the heart of state government.

“We have ample space here,” Waguespack says. “But when I came to the organization I said at some point we have to be downtown. It gets out our brand better and puts us in closer proximity with policymakers in the state capitol and other executive branch agencies.”

Waguespack says the LABI board has been fully supportive of the move, and that for the past year the organization has been exploring different options. Though the deal will require LABI to relocate twice in two years, he says it’s worth it.

“We had a buyer and they came to us and were ready to move in,” he says. “Our membership is very supportive of charter education so we were happy to be able to help them.”

University View Academy, which changed its name early this year from Connections Academy, is one of just two virtual charter schools in the state and has grown rapidly since opening in 2011. This fall, it will enroll 2,300 students in grades K-12 rom 62 parishes around the state.

It already owns buildings on Jamestown and Bennington avenues, but needs the additional space to house offices, conferences and virtual classes.

“It’s a wonderful building that will enable us to host all sorts of conferences,” says University View Superintendent Lonnie Luce. “We’ll house our business offices, HR and district office staff then do some live lessons from there.”