State agency to move into renovated space on Florida as part of redevelopment of entire block

    Dedicated to renovating the entire 1000 block of Florida Street that its headquarters sits on, Arkel Constructors is renovating an old engineering building, erecting a two-story structure that connects to the old engineering building and rehabbing a second facility at the corner of Convention and 11th streets.

    The company on Friday pulled a construction permit to begin working on the 16,000-square-foot Schaffer building at 1020 Florida St., which formerly housed the engineering firm Schaffer & Associates, and build a 10,000-square-foot building right next to the Schaffer structure, says Johnny Fife, founder and president of Arkel Constructors.

    The Schaffer building will be the new home of the Division of Administrative Law, an independent agency in the Department of Civil Service, and the state and Arkel will jointly reside in the 10,000-square-foot building.

    “We’re kind of taking advantage of the opportunity with the state lease to renovate the whole block,” Fife says.

    The Division of Administrative Law, currently housed at 654 Main St., handles administrative law cases between governmental agencies and citizens. The agency—which has 58 employees, 56 of which are based in Baton Rouge—handles 16,000 cases a year. It will have four courtrooms in the new building, agency director Ann Wise says.

    Workers have already gutted the Schaffer building to the studs, leaving only the four exterior walls to prepare for the renovation, Fife says. The plan is to place the two buildings close together to make them look like one big building from the street, Fife says. Workers will be able to go from one building to the other without going outside.

    Arkel’s headquarters sits at the corner of Florida and 11th streets. That building was renovated about two years ago and will receive only a new coat of paint.

    The work on the Schaffer building must be completed by the end of August so the state agency can move in on Sept. 1, Fife says. Another building on the block at the corner of Convention and 11th streets is also being renovated. Some Arkel employees will work in that building, while about 4,000 square feet will be available for a business such as a small law firm or accounting agency. That renovation will entail mostly cosmetic work, Fife says.

    The parking lots covering the rest of the property have already been repaved. A wrought-iron fence will surround the entire block, as required by the state, with a gated entrance and exit at Convention Street, and secondary exit at 11th Street.

    —Ryan Broussard

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