Thursday, February 24, 2005, Vol. 119, No. 39

By Andy Meek

Federal Agency Constructs Local Office

USCIS to fill build-to-suit space in Summer business park


The Daily News

The Memphis office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is getting 30,000 square feet of new space in a business park just off Summer Avenue.

The new building, located at 842 Virginia Run Cove, will provide office and temporary holding space for the group. The project is slated to be finished by early summer, and the completed facility will operate in a business park that includes Rural-Metro Corp. and Heartland Industries Inc., a provider of yard materials.

Construction activity. 5325 Summer Avenue Properties owns the business park, situated northeast of the intersection of Summer and Interstate 40 and across the street from Malcos Drive-In Cinema.

A $1.6 million building permit was filed Jan. 21 for the project, according to The Daily News Public Records Database, Three other permits totaling about $1.4 million have been filed for the property in the last six months.

The new building is being leased to the USCIS by the U.S. General Services Administration, a group that supports a myriad of federal agencies by providing buildings, products and services. The USCIS is a new group that was formed when the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service was folded into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

New local presence. Calls to the current Memphis USCIS office at 1341 Sycamore View Road were not returned, but an official with Flintco, the general contractor for 842 Virginia Run Cove, said the building will house the new local presence of the USCIS.

They actually have an office now at Sycamore View and Macon, and theyre going to relocate to this space, said Mary Jo Reese, project manager for Flintco.

The agencys Memphis location is a sub-office of the New Orleans District of the USCIS. The Memphis office provides immigration-related services to East Arkansas, North Mississippi and Tennessee.

Public space. Reese said the new space on Virginia Run Cove will have several uses for the USCIS, which will be the buildings only tenant.

Its going to be offices, and as well, people who want to apply for citizenship can go to this space, she said. They will also detain any illegal immigrants they might pick up during the day, and theyre not kept there overnight, but theyre processed and sent to another facility. There are some holding cells in there, some offices and some waiting rooms.

J. Wise Smith Associates is the architect for the Virginia Run Cove project. Mike Hoffman, director of construction for Grace Development, said the one-story building should be finished by June 1, adding that construction is under way and the shell building is nearly complete. But Reese said it could be as late as July before the facility is ready to begin operating.

GSA facilities. In the meantime, the building is one of the newest additions to the General Services Administrations local footprint, which includes several Memphis properties. Among them are an IRS Service Center housed in an 884,000-square-foot building at 5333 Getwell Road and a 3,700-square-foot facility at 2990 Airways Blvd.

The GSAs Public Buildings Service manages more than 39.1 million square feet of space throughout the Southeast, in states including Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. The organizations 13,000 associates support more than 1 million federal employees in 8,000 government-owned and leased buildings worldwide.

The GSA also is a catalyst for billions of dollars in federal spending and influences the management of an estimated $500 billion in federal assets. Those assets include government buildings, an interagency vehicle fleet and high-priced computer systems. The bulk of GSAs operating expenses are recovered through the goods and services it provides to federal agencies; about 1 percent of the groups budget comes from Congressional appropriations.

Completing the development. Hoffman said the Virginia Run Cove project was ideal because it allowed more tenants to be added to the business park. But though he said the new building has been leased, he declined to identify the new tenant as the USCIS.

Its just one tenant, and were kind of doing a build-to-suit lease-back kind of deal for them, he said. There are three or four other buildings already in that park. The easiest, simplest answer is that we had a piece of land available in there for the tenant thats going to occupy the building, and it just worked out that we were able to build it and complete our little development on that street.

However, Gary Mote, public information officer for the GSA, confirmed that the USCIS will occupy the building. The facility at 842 Virginia Cove falls in the GSAs Southeast Sunbelt region, which besides Tennessee includes Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

According to the groups Web site, more than 1,100 associates work in the region.