Capitol Building Commission members Wednesday approved construction of a new guardhouse at the entrance to the Governor’s Drive on the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds, replacing a circa-1970s building that has fallen into disrepair.
“If you look at it closely, it’s in pretty poor condition,” Capitol Police Director Kevin Foreman said of the current building, which is manned 24 hours a day.
“It’s an awful place to house individuals,” he said, citing problems with mold, heating and cooling, and water infiltration.
Rodney Pauley, with ZMM Architects, said it would be cheaper to construct a new building rather than try to renovate the existing guardhouse, which was built when the Governor’s Drive and parking was added as part of demolition of residential housing to clear space for construction of the Culture Center, which opened in 1976.
Pauley said the new facility will have ballistic-rated walls and windows — unlike the current guardhouse — and will have better sightlines. The current building has a solid wall facing north, blocking views of Greenbrier Street.
The footprint of the new building will be slightly larger, going from 270 square feet to 286 square feet, he said.
Pauley said the project will require removal of six trees on campus, including two that abut the current building and will need to be removed to allow for demolition and construction.
Four other trees parallel to Greenbrier Street on either side of the Governor’s Drive will be removed to improve sightlines from the guardhouse.
Currently, officers in the guardhouse have difficulty tracking vehicles coming up or down Greenbrier Street until the vehicles have actually pulled into the Governor’s Drive, Pauley said.
Susan Pierce, deputy state historic preservation officer, signed off on the plan, concluding that the guardhouse has no historic significance.
Foreman said the project will not begin until after conclusion of the 2020 regular session of the Legislature, and that access to parking areas off of the Governor’s Drive, used by executive branch staff and by the state Senate, will remain open during construction.
Also Wednesday, the Capitol Building Commission approved projects to:
n Renovate five additional floors in Building 6, one of the two state office towers on the northeast corner of the Capitol complex.
The state has been renovating floors in Buildings 5 and 6, opened in 1974, as funds have become available.
As with the other floors, the project will replace the original perimeter office floor design with an open floor plan. Floors 2 through 6 are to be renovated, joining floors 7 and 8 that have already been renovated in Building 6.
n Make a men’s restroom on the third floor of the East Wing of the Capitol ADA accessible.
The public restroom, located between the Supreme Court chamber and justices’ offices, at one point had been wheelchair accessible, with grab bars around the toilet and a roll-under sink, court administrative director Joseph Armstrong told commissioners.
However, during a recent renovation, he said the grab bars were removed and a pedestal sink that prevents wheelchair access was installed.
Currently, individuals requiring an ADA-accessible restroom have to go to the first floor of the East Wing, he said.
The project approved Wednesday will reinstall grab bars, and replace the pedestal sink with a wall-hung sink. It also calls for installing an automatic door opener for the restroom door.
The project is notable in that it marks the first request from the Supreme Court since the Legislature passed a law, during the 2019 regular session, expanding the authority of the Capitol Building Commission — in light of lavish renovations of justices’ offices that were undertaken without the commission’s approval.
The new law states that commission approval is mandatory before contracts can be awarded for any Capitol complex projects costing $40,000 or more, and clarifies that the commission’s authority extends to all areas of the Capitol complex.
The court did not seek commission approval for renovations of the justices’ offices, based in part on the assumption that the commission’s authority did not extend to private offices or other non-public areas of the Capitol.