A feasibility study of Docking State Office Building in Topeka sought by the Kansas Legislature produced Tuesday a recommendation not to demolish the structure and to consider spending at least $100 million to fully or partially renovate the 62-year-old structure adjacent to the Capitol.
The report released by the Kansas Department of Administration to a Kansas Senate committee dismissed a proposal that gained traction during the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback to tear down the office building and relocate a central utility plant to a site north of the Capitol. Brownback's effort was blocked in 2016 by vote of the Legislature in a bipartisan rebuke of the governor's plan to knock down Docking and his decision to sign a $20 million lease-purchase deal for a new heating and cooling plant.
Brownback officials scattered about 1,000 state employees to four locations in Topeka after signing long-term leases for office space in anticipation the building named for Democratic Gov. Robert Docking would be reduced to rubble.
The new assessment of the 12-story structure by Lawrence-based architectural firm Clark Huesemann proposed complete renovation of Docking as well as the possibility of reducing the building to three floors and adding three floors of new construction. Both of these options would retain the basement power plant serving several Capitol plaza buildings and could permit relocation of laboratories on two floors for use by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"Today’s report gives the Legislature a starting point for an in-depth discussion on how the Docking building can best benefit the citizens of Kansas into the future," said DeAngela Burns-Wallace, secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration.
The five-month evaluation cited the ability to centralize and consolidate agency employees with a renovation of Docking, Burns-Wallace said.
Sen. Carolyn McGinn, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the joint House-Senate building committee would be the first to evaluate options outlined in the report in terms of producing a recommendation for the rest of the Legislature.
Docking has "good bones," said Clark Huesemann executive Steve Clark, but there were mechanical and physical elements of the building that had to be addressed if renovated.
Renovation options set forth by the consultants called for equipment and energy improvements to the power plant, as well as bringing the structure into compliance with fire, life safety, energy and accessibility codes, and constructing a pedestrian bridge across 10th Avenue.
Officials said complete renovation could cost $114 million and take an estimated three years. The project would remove hazardous materials, clean the exterior, install new roofs, insulate non-window walls and gut the interior for new office space. Incorporation of a state-of-the-art medical lab for KDHE would push the cost to $154 million.
The $100 million alternative would allow for removal of upper floors of Docking and construction of three floors on top of three floors retained. Placing the KDHE lab in Docking would escalate the overall cost to $139 million, officials said.
KDHE has been studying ideas for replacing laboratories at Forbes Field in Topeka. If the agency's lab were moved, that 35-acre property at Forbes could be sold.