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Capitol development plan made public

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia state Capitol campus could grow as far west as Laidley Field and Veazey Avenue in the east should state officials choose to follow the latest version of the Capitol Complex Master Plan. The new conceptual design plan, unveiled Friday by the state Department of Administration, also calls for the construction of six new office buildings, three standalone parking garages and a daycare in order to accommodate employee overcrowding at the statehouse.

The plan doesn't require state leaders -- either current or future officials -- to build or fund the projects it recommends. Rather, it provides a framework for expanding the complex in a way that honors Capitol architect Cass Gilbert's original vision for the facility.

"The purpose of this comprehensive plan is to serve as a guide that state officials may utilize in the future when proposing changes, renovations or expansions to the state Capitol complex," said Diane Holley-Brown, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration.

"This resource will serve as a useful tool when making future decisions affecting the State Capitol complex," she said.

The state signed a nearly $888,000 contract in 2009 with Pennsylvania-based consulting firm Michael Baker Inc. to come up with the plan.

While staff at Michael Baker spearheaded the project, they worked with consultants from other firms to develop specific aspects of the plan.

RMJM Hillier handled historic architectural and planning, Heritage Landscapes provided landscape design, System Planning Corp. offered security planning aspects and Walker Parking provided parking planning services.

This is actually the sixth version of a master plan for the statehouse campus.

Gilbert originally began work on one in early 1934, but he died later that year before completing it. His son, Cass Gilbert Jr., drew up a second master plan in 1940.

The younger Gilbert's plan led to the construction of what's now known as Building 3, which used to house the Division of Motor Vehicles. A design team from Charleston-based firm Zando, Martin, and Milstead produced another plan in 1966 which called for construction of current buildings 5, 6 and 7.

C.E. Silling Associates drew up another master plan in 1988, though the only recommendation implemented from it was the closure of Washington Street East in the campus area.

Tag Studios and Sasaki Associates, Inc. drew up another master plan in 1994, though nearly all of its recommendations have been ignored.

With so many different architects designing various aspects of the Capitol complex over the years -- and the fact that many of their ideas failed to be carried out in full -- the latest plan is designed to provide a "holistic, comprehensive, cohesive and organized plan" to improve and grow the campus.

It also goes beyond guiding building architecture, but the more functional aspects of the Capitol area. 

"Unlike other plans of the past, this plan addresses not only the facilities, but parking, security, landscaping, utilities, energy conservation and access to and on the campus," Holley-Brown said.

The plan features seven phases. The first two phases, to be completed over the next eight years, mostly call for landscaping, security and utility improvements.

A new, 12,000-square foot stage for hosting public events would be built in this time.

The later phases are more ambitious, and involve several construction projects to alleviate overcrowding in Capitol offices and parking areas.

The current complex has 2,800 parking spaces spread across ten parking lots, however, this is still 1,300 spaces short of current needs.

The plan proposes replacing most of these existing surface lots with several above and below ground parking garages.

A six-story, 1,745-space would be constructed along Piedmont Road next to Laidley Field. A three-story, 1,990-space garage would also be built along Washington Street East between Carolina Avenue and Greenbrier Street.

This block currently contains some parking, along with a 7-Eleven and McDonald's. In addition to providing more parking, the new building would also include retail space, Capitol police headquarters, employee credit union and, possibly, a gym and bicycle storage room for statehouse employees.

A third, seven-story, 1,605-space garage would be built toward the east on the block between Piedmont Road, Washington Street East and Michigan and Veazey avenues. That building would also feature ground and maintenance storage, as well as over offices.

Combined with other parking areas, including bus parking for the Culture Center, the new plan would offer more than 6,000 spaces for employee and public parking.

In addition to expanding parking, calls for 667,000 square feet of additional office space spread across six new five-story office buildings.

Three of the buildings would be built in the area of the existing parking garage and lots off of Greenbrier Street. The other three would be built along Washington Street East on the blocks east of the Capitol.

All would feature below-ground parking employees working in those buildings.

The plan proposes moving House of Delegates offices to one of those buildings, in order to allow delegates and legislative staff to have their own offices. Most delegates, excluding those that chair committees, currently share office space with at least one other delegate in rooms in the Capitol's East Wing or ground floor.

The plan also says one of the new office buildings could be used to accommodate a potential new Intermediate Appellate Court system -- a topic of high debate in recent years.

The new judicial building should be constructed to include various courtrooms, judge's chambers, research libraries and conference rooms that could be used by the court system, according to the plan.

A seventh two-story, 62,500-square foot building, located along Michigan Avenue, could also be built to house a daycare. It would be large enough to serve 265 children, with more than 20,000 of outdoor greenspace that could be used for a playground.

A handful of smaller buildings and security posts would be built under the plan. That includes a 4,000-square foot visitor center located near the current Greenbrier Street entrance next to the Culture Center.

The plan would also help future governors avoid criticisms among Charleston's chattering class with the construction of a permanent, 4,500-square foot event center attached to the Governor's Mansion.

The permanent facility would, in theory, eliminate the need for erecting any more temporary plastic party tents for executive entertaining.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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