State seeking proposals for new office building to house 1,300 workers in Frankfort

cgross@herald-leader.comJune 18, 2014 

The Capital Plaza office tower in Frankfort.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Plans are underway for a 334,000-square-foot office building that would house 1,300 state employees in Frankfort.

The Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet asked private developers Wednesday to submit proposals to design, build, finance and operate the building, which the state would lease and have the right to buy.

Developers have until June 27 to inform the cabinet of plans to submit a proposal. Completed proposals must be submitted by Aug. 25, and a contract is scheduled to be awarded Sept. 17.

Gov. Steve Beshear's administration is proposing to use state-owned property on Sower Boulevard, just off the East-West connector, for the building, although it is willing to consider using other privately-owned properties. If the Sower Boulevard land is chosen, the state would convey the property to the developer for the duration of the lease-purchase agreement.

Pamela Trautner, spokeswoman for the Finance and Administration Cabinet, said officials have not yet determined which state agencies might move to the building. According to the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet, 11,363 people work for the executive branch of state government in Franklin County.

Trautner said a mixture of factors have created a need for new office space to house state workers in Frankfort. For example, the leases on several buildings occupied by state workers will expire in the next 12-18 months, she said.

There's also concern about the age and functionality of other state office buildings. In 2008, the state hired a Lexington architectural firm to analyze the 26-story Capital Plaza office tower that dominates the skyline of downtown Frankfort.

Sherman-Carter-Barhart Associates recommended demolishing the building and replacing it with a 270,000-square-foot, five-story building nearby. That plan would have cost an estimated $156 million, compared to $134.7 million needed to renovate the office tower. At the time, approximately 1,000 employees worked in the building.

The 2010 General Assembly did not approve the project and Trautner said no decisions have been made about the future of the office tower.

"The state is looking at many factors, not just the tower, that could impact this project," Trautner said Wednesday of the proposed new office building.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the proposed project is an example of the state exploring "more innovative ways to run state government."

"The current structures are in need of significant repair and I am sure that Gov. Beshear is looking at the most cost-efficient way to solve this problem," Stumbo said.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he and other lawmakers have several questions about the proposed project, including "is there a compelling reason to build this new office space in a year of a declining number of state employees?"

Lexy Gross: (859) 231-3335. Twitter: @lexygross.

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