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The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the state’s leading business lobbying group, has a deal in place to buy a building at 500 Main St. and move its offices to downtown Baton Rouge.

LABI said it has an agreement to buy the offices of Stantec from Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the for-profit real estate arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, for $2.7 million. Stantec is set to move into a building at the Water Campus on Nicholson Drive sometime in late 2018 or early 2019. After that, LABI will renovate and move into the downtown building.

Stephen Waguespack, president and chief executive officer of LABI, said moving the organization’s offices downtown near state government has been a goal of his since he was named head of the state chamber of commerce more than four years ago. “It made more sense,” he said. “We wanted to move in the right way.”

Officials with Stantec declined to discuss the move because it hasn’t been finalized, referring comment to Commercial Properties. Tina Rance, a spokeswoman for Commercial Properties, which is also developing and managing the Water Campus, said Stantec hasn’t finalized a decision on where in the facility it will move into.

“We are in negotiations with several new tenants for the Water Campus, however, have not finalized any commitments,” she said.

LABI has had an office at 3113 Valley Creek Drive, off College Drive, since 1983. About two weeks ago, the organization sold the more than 20,000-square-foot building to University View Academy for $1.8 million. University View Academy, which operates an online charter school statewide for students in grades K-12, already owns two nearby buildings. Lonnie Luce, superintendent of University View, said the LABI building includes a conference center that can be used for school activities, professional development for staffers and for public meetings.

Even though LABI won’t occupy 500 Main St. for more than a year from now, the organization is moving downtown next month. The plan is for LABI to temporarily move into the Chase South Tower in September and take over Albemarle's lease for the 11th floor, Waguespack said.

LABI’s new home is 14,000 square feet, slightly smaller than the organization’s current offices.

But Waguespack said the smaller building fits LABI “like a glove” because it has more space than it uses. “This is the amount of space we need,” he said.

LABI, which represents more than 2,200 businesses, has 22 employees.

Plans are to put a high-tech conference center in the downtown building, which will be a showplace to do seminars for members and host panel discussions.

“We want to have a rhythm of more daily and monthly meetings,” Waguespack said. “We want this to be like the cool kids house in the neighborhood, that will be a gathering space for businesses where they can share ideas.”

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.