The state plans a massive redevelopment of its office building opposite The Bushnell in Hartford — including the addition of a new parking garage — with the building being quietly figured into future space consolidation plans.
The project, now estimated to cost $147 million, includes a top-to-bottom renovation of the 1931 building at 165 Capitol Ave. In addition, a parking garage would be constructed either just to the east of the building where there is a vast surface lot or to replace another existing garage on nearby Buckingham Street.
“Everything in the building has to be modernized,” Jeffrey Beckham, a spokesman for the state Department of Administrative Services, told me. “She’s showing her age.”
The plans, Beckham said, are at the earliest stages but are likely to include a complete gutting of the interior of the building and the possible elimination of interior, open-air courtyards. All the systems — heating, cooling and elevators — would be replaced, he said.
Beckham said some of the funds for the project have already been allocated but he declined to say how much, citing the project going out to competitive bidding.
The building now holds 900 state office workers, mostly in the departments of education, administrative services, agriculture and consumer protection. But Beckham said a reconfiguration of office space in a modern floor plan could probably accommodate double the number of workers.
That could make the building, at the corner of Capitol and Washington streets, key to the state’s plan to consolidate its office workers in fewer leased spaces to save money.
Earlier this year, the state purchased two buildings in Hartford — 55 Farmington Ave. in Asylum Hill and Connecticut River Plaza in downtown — to help accomplish that goal.
The purchase and renovation of those structures — totaling about 860,000 square feet — is expected to cost about $123 million. The state said it expects to save $100 million over 20 years in leasing costs by purchasing those buildings.
Beckham said the state has selected Amenta/Emma, a Hartford architectural firm, to conduct a design study with development options. A report is due some time next year, Beckham said.
The project could have implications for the wider neighborhood as well. It is possible that either the parking garage or the office building could have retail uses. IQuilt, a plan to make the city more walkable in area from Capitol building to the river, also has targeted the area east of the office building for recreational use.
“It’s a very large project,” Beckham said. “It’s large enough to make a difference in that neighborhood.”
If the redevelopment proceeds, as the state now expects, workers would be relocated to Connecticut River Plaza. But that wouldn’t happen until 2016, Beckham said, when the downtown office complex is now expected to be ready for occupancy.
Renovations at 165 Capitol, which would retain the building’s historic exterior architectural features, could take two or three years to complete, Beckham said.
The state intends to meet with city officials, The Bushnell, iQuilt and neighborhood leaders to see how the redevelopment would best fit into the neighborhood, Beckham said.
The four-story structure — its exterior faced in Indiana limestone — was designed by the well-known, Hartford architectural firm of Smith & Bassette. The 180,000-square-foot structure is in the Neo-Classical style with Art-Deco flourishes. The side facing Capitol Avenue has tall grills with oak leaves and grape vines. Above the grills is a bas-relief panel on the theme of industry.