Baton Rouge will be a hub for water research on the Louisiana coast and worldwide from Texas to the Vietnam's Mekong Delta, authorities said Tuesday before opening the Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions on the Water Campus.
"We don't get second chances. We are in a race against time. We have to have the very best and brightest minds at work forging solutions," Gov. John Bel Edwards said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The 34,000-square-foot building sits on the Mississippi River just south of downtown by the old Municipal Dock.
Winding from one corner of the warehouse to the other, the trough of the Mississippi River dominates the gigantic but still dry model of south…
"Today, the dock enjoys a rebirth with the opening of the new Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions," East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said.
"The campus is a catalyst for development along the Nicholson corridor, expanding our revived downtown and attracting residential and new businesses through a community that has been ignored for so long."
Construction is set to begin in the spring on the next two buildings in the Water Campus: a 94,000-square-foot office building set up for multiple tenants and a building with 20 lofts. While tenants for the office building have yet to be disclosed, the local branch of Stantec, an engineering firm, has announced plans to leave downtown and move into the Water Campus by late 2018 or early 2019. Rents for the lofts have yet to be determined.
Spurred by a wave of upscale apartment construction in the central business district, the population of downtown Baton Rouge grew by 5 percent…
LSU's Center for River Studies and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority already have facilities on the Water Campus. The New Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions will bring more professionals to the site.
The first floor, to be known as Waterworking, will have office space and a small lab available to rent for research groups, engineering firms and others who may need room to work for a day or longer — such as contractors collaborating with the CPRA.
The nonprofit Water Institute of the Gulf research organization will set up shop on the second floor, while the third level, The Estuary, will have conference space for academic conventions or private events.
The $25 million building was paid for mostly by the state, with a $10 million donation from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said BRAF President and CEO John Davies, who said the Center will "propel Louisiana onto the cutting-edge of coastal protection innovation."
"How awesome is this building?" Water Institute President Justin Ehrenwerth asked to applause.
The Water Institute of the Gulf conducted a worldwide search for its next leader, but found the right fit in its own backyard.
After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana leaders went to the Netherlands to learn how the Dutch have figured out how to protect their own coasts. The leaders were inspired to create a research institute of their own in Baton Rouge, Ehrenwerth said.
Now, the Water Institute is helping the state with its Coastal Master Plan, but it also wants to share its expertise internationally.
"We are at the tip of the spear on some of the most challenging issues confronting coastal and deltaic populations around the world," Ehrenwerth said.
That includes working with Texas authorities thinking about how best to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. And it involves working with officials as far away as southeast Asia to look at scientific and engineering solutions to protect populations there from the destructive power of water, Ehrenwerth said.
Louisiana may be losing a football field of coast every hour, but the state has also rebuilt the equivalent of more than 31,000 football fields, Edwards pointed out.
"And yes, that counts the end zones," the governor added.
He expressed pride at the opening of the new Center and looked forward to it playing a role in shoring up Louisiana's coast.
"We're nowhere near the finish line, and I think that everybody knows that, but this is a concrete and tangible step in that direction," Edwards said.
Advocate business writer Tim Boone contributed to this report.