RI International has signed a five-year, $1.1 million lease agreement with Collis B. Temple Jr., to operate The Bridge Center for Hope out of Temple’s commercial building at 3455 Florida Boulevard.
The negotiation of a lease comes weeks after the Bridge Center board selected the building as the site of the mental health diversion facility, marking the next key step in moving the construction process along.
Renewals are available for the lease, says Charlotte Claiborne, Bridge Center executive director. The price per square foot for the 25,600-square-foot building fluctuated between $10 and $12, with space comprising the main portion of the building costing $12 per square foot and the remaining storage suite costing $10 per square foot.
“Demolition of the interior of the building has begun and is moving along smoothly at this time,” Claiborne says in an email to Daily Report.
RI International, the Bridge Center’s Phoenix-based service provider, will work with Temple as well as architects and engineers on construction plans as the demolition phase wraps up.
Some eyebrows were raised over the Bridge Center board’s decision to locate the facility in a building owned by Temple, who at that point was a board member (he has since resigned). But board members defended their choice, reasoning that Temple’s building had much more usable space and was ultimately more cost-effective than the alternative option of Baton Rouge General’s Mid City campus.
Temple—who, in the early ‘70s, became LSU’s first black varsity basketball player—is the CEO of Harmony Center, which runs residential facilities for the developmentally disabled and group homes for juveniles.
Baton Rouge-based civil engineering firm GWS Engineering is also working on the project alongside PK Associates, a structural engineering firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Seattle-based Sazan Group, which has an office in Tempe, Arizona. The firms are joined by architects from the Phoenix-based Architectural Resource Team.
“The use of [a mix of local and national firms] is because the ones from Arizona have done a majority of all RI International buildings,” Claiborne says. “It’s easier to use firms that are familiar with the design, and it helps us to move faster.”
A construction contractor has yet to be selected, though Claiborne says it will be a local firm.
Slated to open this spring, the 24-bed facility is expected to treat as many as 5,000 residents a year who are facing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. It’s being funded through a 1.5-mill property tax voters approved in December 2018 that is projected to raise some $6 million each year.