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Monday, May 23, 2016

HIGH-TECH MECCA

Neglected corner downtown gets a makeover

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Neglected corner downtown gets a makeover

Walking bustling Milam Street in the 1950s and ’60s was a feast for the senses. Selber Bros. department store was front and center on the shaded street where beautifully decorated storefronts faced a movie theater and popular Chinese restaurant. Those days ended in the ’70s, but a new high-tech center in the landmark Selber building may be the catalyst that turns things around for the 600th block of the nearly deserted area.

Venyu Solutions, a subsidiary of Baton Rouge’s East Ascension Telephone Co., is completing renovation of the once-thriving shopping location that has remained empty for years. Venyu is moving its North Louisiana division from Bossier’s National Cyber Research Park to open a state-of-the-art, military-grade, high-tech security building housing IT support for its clients 24/7. Venyu will occupy the first two floors, and IT-related businesses relying on state-of-the-art data security systems are expected to join them on the third and fourth floors.

“The inside of the building will host a fully functional Tier III data center … Louisiana’s first data center that has received a Tier III rating from the Uptime Institute,” said Tommy Curb, Venyu’s executive vice president of business development and legal affairs. The Tier III rating means equipment upgrades, disasters and failures are not going to result in “downtime,” and Venyu’s clients can continue to function.

Constant onsite security personnel will use monitoring, video surveillance, biometric and access card entry, and man-trap access to the data center of the repurposed building to assure it is very much a 21st century secure IT working environment. Venyu engineers provide cloud and virtual hosting, backup and disaster recovery solutions and co-location services to provide continuity so businesses don’t take a fall.

The Times-Picayune was able to publish from the Venyu data center after Katrina using the Baton Rouge location’s work spaces, conference rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and lounge areas, and IT help.

Duvall Decker Architects, P.A., and Fountain Construction Co. (both of Jackson, Miss.) are working with Venyu as manager to completely overhaul the building to bring it up to the standards required to ensure maximum security for IT departments of its major clients, while keeping the appearance and integrity of the outside structure of the building as it was when it was built in 1955.

Restored architectural treasures on the ground floor, including granite around windows, terrazzo flooring with mosaic elements, elevators surrounded by marble with doors displaying the signature “S” for Selber and reproductions of the original clocks will preserve the integrity of the original design, said Tommy Smith, general superintendent for Fountain Construction. 

The work to change the building from wideopen retail to closed, monitored and highly secure tech is almost complete.

The Venyu staff in Bossier will move this summer with additional new hires coming on board as needed, Curb said. Part of the agreement negotiated with Caddo Parish in exchange for a better price on the property was that Venyu would bring in 70 new jobs with an annual salary of more than $50,000.

“This an important historic preservation project for downtown Shreveport, and the Selber building is an integral part of Shreveport’s history. All of the key historical components of the building are being preserved including the floors, elevators and the ornate ceilings,” Curb said.

–Kathleen Ward

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