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Leaders hopeful new State House will be ready by January 2027

Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris told Capitol Journal’s Todd Stacy the new State House – home of the Alabama Legislature – will likely be completed in time for the start of the 2027 legislative session.

“We would like to be ready at the beginning of the next quadrennium and move in January of 2027,” Harris told Stacy. “We would like to be through (with construction) in 2026 so that we would have that summer to coordinate the move in and maybe even take down this building and some of the other aspects that we would do while everyone is out of town and move in to the building in January of 2027.”

 The Legislative Council approved the first architectural plans of the new building this week.

“Where we are now is that we have released a conceptual drawing, which has been approved for the design of the building itself,” Harris said. “This whole process is kind of like putting together Legos. You want to design the outside of the building. You know the square footage and space you need on the inside of the building. Then it is putting those pieces together on the inside of the building so that you can actually build the building and occupy it.”

Alabama has an historic state capitol that was built in 1859.

“Well in ’85 the decision was made to renovate the old capitol,” Harris explained. “In order to renovate the old capitol we had to move out. This was the old Highway Building here. We renovated this as a temporary location, while they renovated the old capitol.”

The State House was intended to be a temporary facility – but that changed.

“When they came over here they realized that they had more room for members offices, they had more committee rooms than in the old capitol. In the old capitol, members did not have any offices,” Harris explained. “They decided to stay.”

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“It was very nice when they came in; but that was in 85 and again there was really no desire to stay here as long as we have stayed here – close to 40 years,” Harris said. “This building has just aged out.

“This building is old. We came here in 1985. We have had three floods, two fires, we’re constantly fixing leaks in the ceiling. We had one this week where it flooded the F&T offices. They rechanneled it and it flooded the Rules Committee. Water causes mold. Mold causes mildew. That is in the walls of this building. It is an old, tired building. That necessitated the need for a new State House.”

Harris explained that the new State House will be like the old capitol building where the House and Senate Chambers are on the same floor in close proximity. In the current State House, the House chambers are on the fifth floor and the Senate is on the seventh floor.

The Legislature continually evaluated renovations on the existing State House to make repairs, deal with the chronic mold and water issues as well as to bring it up to today’s safety and Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

“With no cosmetic or increase in size change and that price tag in today’s dollars would be close to $70 million and that is just to put a band aid on this building,” Harris said.

The Legislature has entered into a agreement with the Retirement Systems of Alabama on building a State House.

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“This is just the right place at the right time,” Harris said. “With the help of Dr. (David) Bronner and RSA we have been able to come up with a solution and move forward with construction of an entirely new State House.”

Harris expressed confidence in Dr. Bronner and RSA’s ability to actually accomplish this task.

“His experience and RSA’s experience in building buildings whether they’re office buildings in downtown Montgomery or the golf facilities he has built across the state or one Water street in New York City,” Harris said. “He has a tremendous reputation an ability to construct something that will last for years and has done it at a reasonable cost I must say.”

Harris said that the design includes planning for parking.

“There will be an underground parking deck in the new building which will probably park about 180 or 190 vehicles,” Harris explained. “The campus of the Capital Complex is another garage that will be a two-story or three-story garage which will house another 300 or 350 parking places.”

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