Century VillageCentury Village revealed as a quality-of-life catalyst
Autumn ushered in major news for Louisiana’s largest public company: Monroe-based CenturyLink announced plans to acquire Colorado-based Level 3 Communications in a multibillion-dollar deal, one that will make CenturyLink the No. 2 telecom in the U.S.
Yet even before that news emerged, CenturyLink had targeted new work and lifestyle amenities at its headquarters campus that will make the Fortune 500 firm a more attractive employer. CenturyLink employs 2,200 professionals at its Monroe headquarters, with plans to add more jobs in the next few years.
A critical piece of CenturyLink’s growth plans arrived in 2015 when the company expanded its partnership with blue-chip technology leader IBM. The companies announced IBM will open a 400-job Client Innovation Center adjacent to the CenturyLink headquarters campus. That 100,000-square-foot innovation center will provide software solutions to U.S. clients, with the two companies planning to partner on research, development and product innovation.
To accelerate the IBM partnership and other growth goals, CenturyLink recently completed its own 300,000-square-foot Center of Technology Excellence, and acquired 88 acres across U.S. Highway 165 to develop Century Village, a master-planned community in which the IBM center will serve as a business hub surrounded by retail shops, offices and residential rooftops.
CenturyLink executives created the Century Village strategy to attract and retain employees in Monroe, a metro of 179,000 people in Northeast Louisiana.
“The concept of a planned community on our adjacent land became attractive. It made sense with our expansion effort and with our partnership with IBM. We were thinking about job recruitment, job retention and quality of life.”
The development will embody the principles of new urbanism, enabling residents to live, work and play in convenient proximity. While designed with CenturyLink and IBM employees in mind, Century Village is open to anyone. Southern Lifestyle Development of Lafayette, Louisiana, won a competitive process for the right to design and develop Century Village. Previously, SLD’s River Ranch in Lafayette earned recognition from the Urban Land Institute as one of the nation’s 14 best urban villages.
The urban village concept will be applied to Century Village, with Phase I including the IBM center, 215 apartments, office space, retail shops and restaurants. Additional phases will include condominiums, townhomes and single-family dwellings of about 2,500 square feet each. The development will include urban parks, a neighborhood pool, a children’s playground, a day-care center, a health club and a town square where neighborhood events will occur.
Century Village in Monroe, Louisiana, will include IBM at the center as a business hub surrounded by retail shops, offices and residential rooftops.
SLD Managing Partner Robert Daigle says having a strong employment base is a game-changer in attracting retail partners and investors.
“Without a heavy employment base like the one we have means it would take seven to eight years to complete all three phases,” Daigle says. “We think we’re looking at more like four years to completion. That’s a heck of a difference.”
The project got another boost this year when the Delta Regional Authority awarded the City of Monroe a $1 million grant for sewerage infrastructure development that will undergird Century Village. Daigle’s team has conducted focus groups with CenturyLink employees to glean preferences on the village design and the mix of eateries and retailers.
Jones believes the project will make a big difference in attracting talent from across the country to work in Monroe’s expanding tech sector. It also will go a long way in retaining tech graduates from universities in the state.
“Quality of life and housing are big issues for both singles and professionals with families, and we want to get ahead of it,” Jones says. “We also believe Century Village is going to help bring new energy and excitement to the whole community.”