TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — A state committee voted to approve plans for a decades-old state office building in Topeka, which has been at the center of a long-standing debate among state lawmakers for some time.
The Joint Committee on State Building Construction met Monday, voting to tear down and rebuild three stories of the Docking State Office Building in downtown Topeka. The option was one of two different proposals discussed by lawmakers in September.
Representative Marty Long, R-Ulysses, chair of the committee, said the committee had taken time to weigh the costs and benefits of two different proposals.
“The committee voted to send a recommendation to the state finance council to demolish the Docking State building down to ground level and build back three floors,” Rep. Long said. “It also gives the State Finance Council options to make that space office, or events center, or whatever they see fit.”
The other option included leaving the entirety of the building as it is, remodeling, and bringing it up to city codes. However, Rep. Long told Kansas Capitol Bureau that the committee left the use of the building to the State Finance Council so that they would qualify for federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act, ARPA.
Long said the committee’s goal is to use “federal funds to pay for a portion” of the Docking building and state health department’s new lab location. In addition, long said they would rebuild the “outdated” lab facility southwest of the Capitol.
The 64-year-old building doesn’t have many people working in it. During the meeting, the State Department of Administration officials noted that, like some other state office buildings, the Docking building is “showing its age.”
In May, lawmakers proposed spending $120 million to renovate the building. However, the price was reduced due to the use of coronavirus relief funds. Now, the price has been set below $100 million. Long said the committee is still waiting to solidify federal assistance to kick off the project.
Earlier this year, some lawmakers like Representative John Alcala, D-Topeka, said they’re hoping updates to the building will help improve downtown and keep jobs in the community.
“I’ve watched it go from its peak, and I’ve watched it to where it’s kind of deteriorating over a period of time, but the investments are starting to happen.,” said Alcala. “Some of the old buildings you see down there, people have bought those and so it takes time to transition into spending money and getting buildings up to par.”