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Plan for fence, wall at Capitol advances

A low wall slated for parts of the state Capitol grounds perimeter could prevent vehicles from driving on the grounds, state officials say. This rendering shows part of a plan moving forward to increase security at the complex.
The Capitol Building Commission gave the go-ahead to finish designing a plan that would install a 6-foot “ornamental” fence around portions of the governor’s mansion. An architect’s rendering shows what the fence could look like along Kanawha Boulevard.

The state moved forward with a plan Wednesday to have a new fence and limestone wall in place around the governor’s mansion sometime this winter.

The Capitol Building Commission agreed at its meeting to allow architect GAI Consultants to finish designing and planning for the first phase of a project intended to increase security at the state Capitol grounds.

“Right now, the way the Capitol complex is designed, most areas of the Capitol you could drive a vehicle onto the property because there’s nothing that is a security or a system that would stop it,” said Caryn Gresham, state Division of Culture and History deputy commissioner.

“So this limestone wall would set up a perimeter security that a car couldn’t drive over.”

The first part of the plan, approved by the commission, addresses the area of the capitol complex at the corner of Greenbrier Street and Kanawha Boulevard near the governor’s mansion. The plan calls for a short limestone wall to run along the sidewalk on both streets, with a 6-foot-tall ornamental fence closer to the mansion.

The wall would run south from about the guard house at the Greenbrier Street entrance to the governor’s mansion to the corner. It is slated to continue a few yards past the entrance to the mansion on the sidewalk along Kanawha Boulevard.

“The wall is very low lying, you can actually sit on it. And there’s fencing above it,” said Randall Reid-Smith, Culture and History commissioner.

Reid-Smith and Greshman said the plan is part of a broader, ongoing discussion about security at the Capitol.

Some version of the plan approved Wednesday has existed for about seven years, said Lawrence Messina, state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman.

“This really arises from the general discussion of heightening security measures on campuses such as this,” Messina said, noting many of those discussions nationwide were prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks

“I don’t think there’s any specific incident or incidents (in the last year) one could point to.”

Like Reid-Smith, Messina also pointed out that there were plans for a fence around the mansion in some of the original designs when architect Walter Martens worked on the project in the early 1920s. A rendering of the mansion from Martens included in GAI’s presentation Wednesday shows a fence around the mansion.

GAI’s plan also calls for a green space around the perimeter of the complex. Conceptual drawings show flower beds, more trees and bushes lining the sidewalk.

An additional part of the plan the commission approved — Gresham called it “phase 1A” —changes a parking lot north of the Culture Center into a bus turnaround. Buses currently stop on Greenbrier Street to allow passengers to get off.

By moving the bus area to the space just north of the Culture Center, it creates a safer spot away from a busy road for the vehicles to unload, Gresham said.

GAI was originally awarded a $225,000 contract in 2012 to design a perimeter security project at the Capitol grounds. In 2013 the contract was amended to include an additional $12,000 to account for more design work, according to the state purchasing division.

It’s too early to say how much construction will cost or when all phases will be complete, Reid-Smith said. GAI plans to finish the design for the first phase and have the project ready for bid by the middle of the summer.

Assuming the contract is awarded promptly, the new fence and wall could be finished by late fall or early 2015, Reid-Smith said.

East End neighborhood associations are exploring constructing similar safety features on the West side of Greenbrier Street. The organization recently put money toward studying and developing a design for a project that included constructing crosswalks and streetscape improvements.

The organizations aren’t sure where they’ll get the money to complete the project.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or Follow him at

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