Less costly than anticipated, renovation of Kansas Statehouse almost done

With a basement-to-dome renovation of the Kansas Statehouse nearing its end, a huge construction crane towering beside the building is supposed to come down next month, and the cost is likely to be a little less gargantuan than state officials had anticipated.

Barry Greis, the architect who oversees the Capitol, said Monday that almost all of the work will be done by year’s end and expenses probably will be several million dollars below the last projected total of $332 million. Even on Veterans Day, work continued on landscaping and a new visitors center in the basement.

The renovation began in 2001 and has updated the building’s water, electrical, heating, air-conditioning and fire safety systems. Legislators have better, roomier offices and meeting rooms that are more accommodating to spectators. The state built an underground parking garage and added 128,000 square feet to the Capitol’s basement.

In the past, escalating costs were a sore point for some state officials, though legislative leaders added the parking garage and basement expansion to the project. The state also discovered that exterior stone needed repair and copper on the building’s roof and dome had to be replaced.

“I can’t imagine another major renovation/remodeling,” Greis said. “We’ve provided the private offices, the expanded committee rooms, visitors seating, things like that.”

The new visitors center will have displays, a gift shop, a classroom and an auditorium. The floor will contain a map of Kansas set in stone, with each of the 105 counties identified.

Greis said colder weather will prevent workers from finishing the last of the landscaping until early spring and from completing a brick driveway around the building. The last bricks can’t installed now because they will go where the base of the crane is.

The crane has been used for work on the dome. The scaffolding around the dome has come down, and Greis said large beams that supported the scaffolding will start to come down this week. Once they are gone, the crane won’t be needed.

The number of workers involved in the renovation has declined from the 150 to 160 employed last summer to between 60 and 70, said Jim Rinner, the project manager for J.E. Dunn Construction Co., the general contractor.