Future of Cordell Hull again uncertain while administration re-evaluates options

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 3:49pm

Plans to demolish the historic Cordell Hull Building downtown aren’t set in stone, according to the governor’s office.

The Haslam administration plans to reassess plans to tear down the nearly 60-year-old structure sitting across the street from the Capitol Building, Chief of Staff Mark Cate told members of the legislative Fiscal Review Committee Tuesday.

“Quite frankly, we understand there is a lot of interest in this building,” said Cate who called the Cordell Hull building “functionally obsolete” and “inefficient operationally” from a business standpoint.

“Because of the interest in this building and because of the importance of its location, again its perceived historical nature, we think it’s probably wise to have yet another set of eyes on this again,” said Cate.

He said the goal is still to move employees out of the building but to assess whether it can be used for another purpose, although he warned the $24 million estimated price tag for repairs to the building, plus $13 million for nearby Central Services, will likely climb.

The administration announced plans earlier this year to demolish the building originally built in 1954. While the facilities would cost $37 million to repair, demolition would cost nearly $25 million.

The announcement to re-review Cordell Hull came as Cate defended a controversial state contract with repeatedly increasing costs with Jones Lang Lasalle, a Chicago-based real estate company the governor at one time invested in. JLL stands to benefit if the state keeps the building open, although JLL initially recommended its demolition, according to Cate.

The state awarded JLL a $1 million contract in 2011 to outsource management of state buildings — including Cordell Hull — although the agreement was amended five times by last March. In May, the state awarded the company a five-year $38 million contract to manage state-owned and state-leased properties except those operated by universities. The JLL deal includes a maximum of $330 million liability to the state for pass through costs like power, custodial work and security.

“In hindsight, would we have done this differently? Absolutely,” said Cate who said the state had $1 million initially appropriated for the contract, although the idea was the company would take on much more responsibility although money was not readily available.

In light of questions about ties between JLL and the governor and repeated edits to the state’s agreement with the real estate firm, the legislature’s House and Senate speakers called for hearings to evaluate the contracts, including others over vehicle repair and rental services.

11 Comments on this post:

By: TennesseeJed on 7/16/13 at 6:20

Thirty years from now when the Cordell Hull building is a historic landmark, people will raise an eyebrow when told that at one time the plan was to demolish the building. Never forget that in the late 1970's the plan was to demolish the Ryman Auditorium as well.

By: pswindle on 7/16/13 at 7:44

Please save this building! Why would you not want to save it? Surely, the Governor is not that insensitive to the history and its people of the great state of TN. Maybe his buddies could find another building to tear down that does not mean as much to TN.

By: BigPapa on 7/17/13 at 7:20

Im sure there's some FRIEND OF HASLAM that has his eye on that plot of land.

By: Wild Bill on 7/17/13 at 7:52

To say that this building is “functionally obsolete” is an understatement. Also, certain elements of the building are falling apart and the companies who made those parts 60 years ago are no longer in business.

Add to all of that the Americans with Disabilities Act, which forces building owners ( even the state) to become compliant in every aspect when remodeling. Things like the bathrooms are not big enough, all of the railings in the stairways are not ADA compliant, the elevators would have to be redone. You simply can't make most of these changes.

Not to mention it has none of the basic infrastructure for advanced technology.

Demolish the existing building and build a new one that looks almost like the existing one on the outside but with a totally new inside.

By: Kelliente on 7/17/13 at 8:04

Sometimes "historic" buildings are just OLD. This is not the Ryman, this is an outdated office building that's ugly as sin-- a giant gulag with no architectural, artistic, or cultural significance. I say, do the cheapest thing you can to bring it up to snuff.

By: courier37027 on 7/17/13 at 11:14

Tear down that building, and erase everything associated with that man's name.

By: pswindle on 7/17/13 at 1:05

Courier, have you read about this great man? I guess you are proud of our Governor?

By: courier37027 on 7/17/13 at 2:10

Cordell Hull: war monger, income tax code writer, founder of United Nations. Unless you consider eroding sovreignty, government largess and combat successes I see nothing that makes the Hull name honorable. He was likely the first Nobel prize winner not to deswerve the award. Furthermore I am not proud of Hull, nor our current governor.

By: pswindle on 7/17/13 at 5:54

The United Nations was and is important to our freedom, safety and good-will among nations. What a brilliant man to come up with all of the ideas that have worked all of these years for better government. What would you do differently? How would you fund the government? I know, just do away with government. How do you like your roads and everything that government pays for? You need to re-read your history. Your Tea-Party is showing, and that seems to be where TN has gone. Oh we could turn the money over to the governors to spend. Most Governors would have a field day in spending their state's money. Wonder whose pocket the money would land in.

By: walbond on 7/17/13 at 7:27

While we're tearing down buildings we own because they're old and inefficient, maybe we should consider tearing down the oldest and least efficient, which is undoubtedly the State Capitol. Next would be the War Memorial Building, Legislative Plaza, and the Supreme Court Building, followed by the TPAC building. We could then put condos on all the land and make ourselves a fortune. We could move all the State offices (including the Governor's and the Legislature's) to rented space and be ever so much more efficient. While we're at it, why don't we also convert Tennessee Towers to condos? Imagine what kind of price the penthouse would bring, and how much Haslam's buddies could make in fees.

By: courier37027 on 7/17/13 at 8:29

pswindle, don't forget your hero's participation in Japanese internment camps. You libs and your blind loyalty for anything big government, If the United Nations is so great, why are people still starving in Africa? Remember Kofi Annan and Iraq oil kickbacks? To answer your question about funding the government, I would propose getting government out of retirement planning, student loans, public housing, and other ventures where it has no business. To let my imagination run wild, my first Executive Order would be to tear down the FDR Memorial, then torch the Hull Memorial in Byrdstown. You need to re-read your history without your John Lennon horned rim glasses.