April 16, 2015 02:37 PM

CGI moves 50 employees into its temp offices on Jefferson Street.

While construction continues at its new office complex on UL’s Research Park property near Congress Street and Cajundome Boulevard, Montreal-based CGI Federal has settled into a good-looking space Downtown.

The IT company will call the old Advertiser building on Jefferson Street home for at least the next year — until its new 50,000-square-foot office building at 538 Cajundome Blvd., designed by Architects Southwest and under construction by J.B. Mouton, is complete.

In April 2014, CGI announced its decision to expand to Lafayette and create 400 direct jobs. The company will ultimately become an anchor tenant of the 143-acre Research Park, where it will develop complex business and IT solutions for clients.

Since moving into the Jefferson Street office in mid-March, employment has reached about 50 and will eventually grown to 180, CGI’s local director, Trey Harper, tells ABiz. Roughly half of the local workforce is recent college grads, he says, who are familiar with the Downtown landscape and like the work environment.

Harper himself lobbied for the temporary Downtown office, seeing it as an opportunity to put a prominent Jefferson Street building back into commerce. He says that he relishes the convenience the business district offers and admits he isn’t looking forward to giving that up in a year or so — CGI subleased the Downtown spot for two years from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, which has a three-year lease on the building. “But I do miss The Lab at AcA,” he says, referencing the recent closure of the coffee shop. “I drink a lot of espresso,” he adds, noting that his new coffee shop of choice is Black Café on South Pierce Street.

The CGI deal could be a nice shot in the arm for Beau Box Real Estate, which is managing the Downtown lease for JD Property Management, the company that owns the old Advertiser building along with three other long-vacant nearby properties surrounding what has since been converted into a new parking lot for CGI’s employees.

“Interest [in the three remaining spaces] has been very active lately, but I’m not sure it’s a direct result of CGI being there,” Beau Box’s Mark Van Eaton tells ABiz. An engineering firm is considering the 13,000-square-foot spot on Cypress Street, and Van Eaton is convinced the 4,500-square-foot space on Garfield is best suited for a restaurant (it can easily be adapted to offer al fresco dining as well). Another 2,100 square feet of space is available next to Vertical Barre, which recently moved in at 215 Garfield St.

At full employment locally, CGI will have a total annual payroll of about $22 million. The project will result in an additional 405 new indirect jobs, totalling more than 800 new permanent jobs in Acadiana.

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