Lawmakers mull move into building once set to be razed

Friday, April 17, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 16

NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee lawmakers are mulling a move out of their underground office complex to a building next to the Capitol that until recently was designated for demolition.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's administration last year reversed course on an earlier decision to raze the Cordell Hull office building, and this year included $40 million in the state budget to renovate it.

State lawmakers cite space concerns for offices and committee rooms in their current location, and note the high cost of maintenance for the underground facility and the adjacent War Memorial Building. The Legislative Plaza isn't equipped with fire sprinklers and has had problems with flooding.

Legislative Plaza last underwent a $14 million overhaul in 2007 to try to halt water damage from fountains and trees located on its roof.

Under the plan supported by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, the current underground plaza would be repurposed a s parking and the War Memorial Building would be given to the state.

Harwell's office projects that an overhaul of current facilities - and moving the Legislature in and out of temporary buildings - would cost $58 million.

Plans to construct a new office building for the Legislature were abandoned in the 1990s amid escalating cost estimates.

Bob Oglesby, the commissioner of general services, told the State Building Commission in August that a $70 million renovation of the Cordell Hull building would create space to house workers while other office buildings are overhauled in the future.

The original recommendation to demolish the building was made by consultant Jones Lang LaSalle, which said it would be cheaper to tear down than to fix up and maintain. But Oglesby said the consultant's study hadn't been asked to take into account the key location of the building, which can be seen out the windows of the governor's office in the Capitol.

The Corde ll Hull building currently can hold about 1,000 workers, but only about a third of it is occupied by state agencies, such as the attorney general's office and the Department of Children's Services.