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GA Building demolition picks up a vote of support

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on April 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm with No Comments »
April 4, 2013 6:12 pm
General Administration Building
General Administration Building

A consultant brought in last year to recommend whether to repair or replace the state’s General Administration Building said the best option – for the money – is to replace it fully with a new $161 million structure that could also hold the State Library.

That idea hasn’t gotten any immediate traction with the Legislature, and the Department of Enterprise Services did not ask for money in December to get that concept rolling. But Rep. Gary Alexander is hoping to breathe new life into the replacement-building idea outlined by consultant SRG – after he won a vote in support for the demolition Thursday.

The vote came during a meeting of an obscure state committee, known as the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, or CCDAC, which has legislators, architects, and a few statewide elected officials as members.

It’s a purely advisory board that reviews ideas for changes or additions to the Capitol Campus buildings and landscapes. But its recommendations carry some weight with the State Capitol Committee, which has final say on campus structures, and lawmakers who write the budgets that finance projects.

But Alexander said he thinks it helps his case – and that of Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who eventually wants to see a permanent home for the State Library which could be part of a Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus. Sam Reed, the previous secretary of state, and Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, both championed that Heritage Center project on the GA site until the recession robbed its funding.

Later, in 2010, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed to spend $6.3 million to demolish the 57-year-old building, calling it a liability and pit in need of shoring up against earthquakes. But lawmakers balked, instead providing $150,000 for the consultant’s study of options – which led to the hiring of SRG Partnership, an architectural and engineering firm.

Rep. Gary Alexander
Rep. Gary Alexander

“I think it’s important (to) have this recommendation from this committee that hopefully will guide the Legislature’s capital budget committees in what they’ll do,” Alexander said. “Up to this point we didn’t have a recommendation. We only had a report.”

SRG Partnership said costs to modernize it would run to $124 million for a building that would not perform as well as a new one.

Alexander said he plans to ask House Capital Budget Committee chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, for money to start the process of replacing the structure.

“Now I think we have a definite plan ahead,” Alexander said. “Now how do we go about putting in the resources to start the … design and construction plans for a new building at that site?”

Dunshee said in December he did not see urgency in acting but said the GA site is a good one for a future state building on the north edge of the Capitol Campus.

Secretary of State Wyman also wants to knock down GA and voted with Alexander and other CCDAC members.

Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia also voted in favor of the demolition, but Hunt said it would be premature to start work on that goal. He said the State Patrol need a new home and other agencies would have to be relocated, which requires time and money.

But he said, “Everybody hates the General Administration Building.’’

GA disappeared as a state agency in 2011, morphing into the Department of Enterprise Services through a merger of five agencies. As the state’s landlord agency, DES is tasked with managing the GA Building that houses the State Patrol headquarters, parts of the Office of Financial Management, the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Office of Minority and Business Enterprises, and numerous other small agencies.

But Enterprise Services is not bound to do anything specific as a result of the CCDAC vote and it won’t.

“It’s just a recommendation that if anything was done there it would be a better way to go than fixing up the building, because it’s not worth doing that,’’ spokesman Steve Valandra said.

In the short term, Gregoire proposed $750,000 for essential repairs on the building over the next two years, and that request is in new Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget as well. Inslee had a transition office in GA after winning election in November, but he has not weighed in yet on replacement of the building.

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