Politics & Government

State seeking developer to demolish Capital Plaza Tower and convention center

File photo of the Capital Plaza Tower in downtown Frankfort, Ky.
File photo of the Capital Plaza Tower in downtown Frankfort, Ky. Photo provided by state of Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is seeking a private developer to tear down and replace a large swath of downtown Frankfort, including the 26-story Capital Plaza Tower, the Frankfort Convention Center, Fountain Place Shops and two parking garages.

The state Finance and Administration Cabinet issued a request for proposals Tuesday to demolish the tower and surrounding buildings and replace them with a five-story office building and parking garage for 1,500 state employees, which the state would lease from a private developer.

State lawmakers this year approved legislation to allow the Department for Facilities and Support Services within the Finance and Administration Cabinet to enter into a public-private partnership, built-to-suit, or lease-purchase agreement for use of the Capital Plaza Tower, which is Frankfort’s tallest building.

The state’s request seeks a private entity to finance, design, develop, construct, maintain and lease to the state an office building and parking garage with a minimum of 385,000 gross square feet for 1,500 employees.

Interested parties must submit responses by 10:30 a.m. May 31. The state hopes to award a contract by Aug. 29, start demolition Nov. 1 and begin construction next Feb. 1 in a phased development. The project does not affect the nearby Capital Plaza Hotel, YMCA and federal courthouse building.

The 10,000-square-foot convention center, which is operated by the state tourism cabinet, can seat more than 5,000 for assemblies and sporting events.

State Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said his main question is what to do about the loss of the convention center, noting that it is used for activities including basketball games, high school graduation ceremonies, the governor’s annual prayer breakfast and the Kentucky Book Fair.

“It is used extensively and the Frankfort area needs such a facility,” said Carroll, who quickly added that its heating and air conditioning is in the tower area, which will be demolished.

“It’s too costly to build heating and air systems for such an old building,” he added.

The tower, which housed several state agencies until last summer, opened in 1972. It was labeled surplus property last year and has been on the auction block since July. No one placed a bid to buy it.

The property consists of 365,700 square feet, with 11,500 square feet of office space fronting on Wilkinson Boulevard, and a parking garage consisting of 767 parking spaces. All of this is located on about 8 acres at the corner of Wilkinson and Mero Street.

The tower, which dominates the skyline of downtown Frankfort, had housed many of the 750 to 800 employees who were moved last June to a new state office building on Sower Boulevard off the East-West Connector.

In 2008, the state analyzed the physical condition of the tower. Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects 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, about 1,000 employees worked in the building.

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

In recent years, there have been reports of concrete falling from the tower and water leaking in the building.

The 338-foot tower has a modernist architectural style. The next tallest building in Frankfort — the Capitol — is 210 feet tall.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics