Get to know: GSA Region 4 – Southeast Sunbelt

This story is part of Federal News Network’s ongoing series: GSA @ 70: Mission evolved

General Services Administration Region 4 covers the Southeast Sunbelt and is headquartered in Atlanta. It covers Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Alabama and Kentucky.

What you may not know about the region

The Southeast Sunbelt Region has one of the busiest courthouse construction programs nationwide, and some of the buildings that have been converted into courthouses include Institute Hall in Natchez, Mississippi. It is colloquially referred to as “Opera Hall” and was built in 1853. GSA acquired the property in 2004 and converted its auditorium and roller rink into a fully functioning federal courthouse for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Brian Stern, General Services Administration, GSA Region 4
GSA Region 4 Administrator Brian Stern

Regional Administrator Brian Stern: How has the region changed over its history?

“With the noted exception of Washington, D.C., GSA’s real estate portfolio contains more [federal] property located in the southeastern U.S. than anywhere else. The federal government’s need for workspace in the Southeast has grown substantially throughout GSA’s history, and as such, the vast majority of our real estate portfolio now comes in the form of costly long-term leased facilities. In fact, GSA currently leases more than 1,300 properties for its customers in the Southeast Sunbelt Region … In the last five years alone, we’ve successfully transitioned 23 federal agencies out of leased space, creating a cost savings of $17 million.”

 

Grace Jackson, General Services Administration
Grace Jackson is a building management specialist for GSA Region 4.

Who is the region’s longest serving GSA employee and what do they do?

Grace Jackson, a building management specialist in Columbia, South Carolina, has been with GSA since 1977. She first joined in Miami as a clerk typist, and said she has stayed with the agency in part because of the “great camaraderie” with her colleagues.

Then and now

The U.S. Courthouse in Natchez originally opened July 4, 1853 as a gathering place for the adjacent Natchez Institute School. It quickly became the city’s entertainment venue, and in 1901 the basement level girls’ classrooms relocated to the newly replaced school. With a new concert hall opening that same year, Opera Hall was virtually empty, according to GSA.

In 1921, the American Legion used the space as a World War I monument. Throughout the 20th century it was a teen canteen, a library, a charity clothing drop-off center, a museum, storage for city voting booths, a home for boxing matches and an occasional performance hall. By the 1970s the building had decayed and in 1987, the historic Natchez Foundation began emergency repairs.

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