The clash with Governor Hunt delayed the tenant process until we almost lost the the fantastic unit prices included in the contract with which to complete the office spaces. The contractor’s bid had included very favorable terms under which the tenant fitout work could be done, but there was a provision that the contractor had to be given the tenant work before he was half-finished with the building itself. Somehow Dr. Bronner got this issue worked out and we managed to get underway with the process.
Included in the tenant list were the Securities Commission, Aeronautics, Criminal Justice Information Center, Nursing Board, Ethics, Commission on Aging, Veterans’ Affairs, and the State Building Commission, each one an intrigue within itself.
Because the RSA had no staff member who had any knowledge of, or interest in, tenant/landlord affairs, the PH&J staff and I filled that role. With each tenant we were at once architect, rental agent, advisor and confidant–and conduit for messages. I spent months stealing into their present quarters to discuss their new tenant layout, and hoping desperately not to get caught by their current landlord. I especially did not want to be confronted by an Aronov operative.
Each tenant came from a different location and circumstance, and each one had a different outlook on their upcoming move into space so close to the seat of government.
Some, like Criminal Justice and Ethics, were in such poor quarters they were overjoyed at the prospect of upscale space and convenient parking. Mel Cooper and his Ethics Commission had been banished by Legislative nonfunding to froggy bottom on South Court, and this seemed to Mel a glorious improvement. His agency was so poor their furniture seemed like secondhand castoffs. Mel and I discussed his dilemma, and how bad his furnishings would look in new digs. At one point I told him Montgomery County was discarding better furniture than he had, and I could at least get him some of that.
The Council on Aging was in the former Davis Building on Catoma Street downtown, and its staff was entirely unhappy with their prospective move. I had to admit that their new suite would not include offices as large as the 400 square feet space that some of them presently had. Nor could we improve on the vast sea of parking available to them in the parking lots of the deserted downtown area. I was asked by their Director if each of them could have two spaces in the new parking deck, so they could bring their private cars to work, park those vehicles and depart in their State vehicle parked alongside. It was no fun to work with an agency that was unhappy about the move.
The Board of Nursing was another unhappy tenant. That agency was located out on East Boulevard in nice space with ample parking. And the office was probably located close to where its personnel lived. They did not want to move downtown and they let me know of their displeasure. I relayed their unhappiness to Dr. Bronner and told him I did not want to go back and deal with such a resentful group. That circumstance was relayed to the State Finance Director and shortly thereafter it became known that the Nursing Agency Director was involved in the ownership of the building they were currently occupying. Subtle threats were made to the effect that the information might become public and indictments returned over the conflict of interest. Oddly enough, the Nursing Director’s attitude immediately changed, and I went back and completed that suite layout with no further problems.
On the other hand, the State Building Commission was most pleasant and was expert enough to design its own layout. Their happiness over the move was ironic, given that this was the agency that the State Finance Director had earlier utilized in the Governor’s attempt to block construction.
Among the tenant amenities that we were able to offer was a private toilet for each agency director. Bronner suggested it, because he wanted each agency Director so pleased with his own suite that he would not consider moving the agency and thus force the RSA to remodel the space for a replacement occupant. After interviewing several tenants, I reported back to Bronner that no director was willing to risk the political heat that his or her own private facility might bring. Bronner said he “would fix that; I’ll require them to have one, and they can all blame the luxury on me.”
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)