Old wallboard and ceiling tiles are giving way to a New Age-style office in a space on Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette that will be home to Montreal-based information technology consulting firm CGI Federal.
The company is putting down roots, making its home in the building — between nightclub B.E.D. and furniture store Workplace Solutions — where The Daily Advertiser was housed for more than half a century.
“It’s going to be one of the coolest spaces in downtown Lafayette,” Beau Box real estate agent Mark Van Eaton said.
More than 400 CGI Federal employees will occupy the 13,680-square-foot space downtown, which has been empty since 2005.
“It confirms that these folks want to be in the city,” Downtown Development Authority CEO Nathan Norris said. “The reason is because the alternative is a suburban office, and that’s not in as vibrant of an environment as we have downtown.”
Van Eaton worked with the building’s owner, JD Property Management, to negotiate a leasing agreement with CGI.
When the University of Louisiana at Lafayette completes the 143-acre research park outlined in its master plan, CGI will move there, meaning the company will be downtown for at least the next two years.
“I think it’s huge for the area,” Van Eaton said. “You’re bringing a lot of young professionals that are going to be eating lunch downtown. They’re going to be working downtown. If we can get some kind of living aspect to the downtown area, I believe that they would live down there, as well.”
The Advertiser stayed in the office building until 2005, when the newspaper moved to its current location on Bertrand Street, leaving the Jefferson Street building unoccupied.
Gannett sold the property to JD Properties in 2007.
Van Eaton said the property owner had intended to turn The Advertiser complex, including the press facility on Garfield Street, into a mixed-use residential and commercial area.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, those plans turned sour.
CGI is based out of Montreal and provides IT consulting to other companies.
The company announced that it was opening a Lafayette center in April.
CGI is one of three major technology firms moving into the area; the other two are Enquiero and Perficient.
“They’re creating a lot of good, high-paying jobs for UL-Lafayette graduates and other computer people here in Lafayette,” Van Eaton said. “I think it’s going to be a big boost to the downtown area.”
While Norris welcomes the development of new office space and workers downtown, he noted there is a critical need for more housing in the area.
“Our No. 1 issue is getting people to live here,” he said. “The one way we’re incomplete as a community regionwide is that we don’t offer high-quality city living. Until we do that, we’re going to have a lot of people who choose to live elsewhere.”