Wampold acquires old State Office Building

Developer Mike Wampold has acquired the old State Office Building at 150 Third St. downtown and plans to spend the next 90 days determining the best use for the art deco building.

Possible uses for the 12-story, 92,567-square-foot office building could be as an apartment, hotel or office space. There may be a mixed-use component, Wampold said, such as a restaurant or retail establishment on the ground floor.

“We don’t know what downtown will look like in 36 months after IBM comes in with 800 employees,” he said.

Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, said the building, whether it becomes a hotel, offices or a residential development, will provide a tremendous boost to the Third Street corridor.

Third Street is in the midst of a transformative redevelopment with nine different projects in progress, Rhorer said. There are 300 residential units underway in the Central Business District.

A hotel would also be significant, lifting downtown to 1,000-plus rooms within walking distance of the River Center, Rhorer said.

In a deal that closed Thursday, Wampold bought the entity that the Baton Rouge Area Foundation set up to buy the building. BRAF acquired the building at an auction from the state for $10.25 million in a deal that was finalized earlier this week.

The plan is to put the property under the Milford Wampold Foundation, which falls under the umbrella of BRAF but has a separate board of directors. The board decides the projects the foundation will undertake. Those efforts have included donating, buying and selling properties, although the State Office Building is the foundation’s first commercial project downtown. The foundation also has supported a number of community-improvement projects, such as bringing fresh produce to food deserts, which are areas without nearby grocery stores, and programs at both Christian and public schools.

Wampold has several properties in downtown Baton Rouge, including the Chase North Tower, City Plaza and II City Plaza office buildings.

His latest deal shows his commitment and interest in the area, he said.

The building was constructed in 1926 as the home of Louisiana National Bank and was the first skyscraper in Baton Rouge.

The state took over the building in the 1960s. It had housed state higher education offices and the Louisiana Board of Regents. Gov. Bobby Jindal announced in 2013 he wanted to sell the building to help balance the budget and took bids on the property.

Wampold said he was interested in purchasing the building but had no idea that BRAF would be the winning bidder for the property. He didn’t want to bid against the foundation, so he set up his agreement with BRAF.

The State Office Building is across Third Street from The Onyx building, which is being redeveloped by Commercial Properties Realty Trust, an entity that manages and develops BRAF’s property holdings. Commercial Properties will spend $6 million to redevelop the property, which has been renamed The Onyx Residences. Plans are to have 28 one- and two-bedroom apartments built above 5,600 square feet of commercial space.

The Onyx Residences and the State Office Building are among several redevelopment projects underway along Third Street. Plans are underway to turn the Commerce Building into a mixed-use property with about 92 loft apartments, a private events deck and a rooftop restaurant. Work has started on 440 on Third, which will turn the former Capital One Bank building into an apartment/office building with a Matherne’s Supermarket on the ground floor. Raising Cane’s will take up the bottom floor of the Richoux’s Building at Third and Florida streets.