There will soon be noticeable progress in the nearly 15-year process of constructing a new Alabama State House.
Late last month, a construction subcommittee made up of a bipartisan group of lawmakers approved the initial construction plans for the building. On Wednesday, a press release from the subcommittee announced that site prep will begin within a few days and foundation construction is expected to begin in January.
The new, five-story building will sit across Ripley Street, in what was a parking lot directly behind the current State House. The Retirement Systems of Alabama will handle the construction process and financing, which will allow the state funnel the expenses for the project’s financing back into the RSA’s accounts for retired state employees.
“I’m very excited about where we are now in the process,” said Senate Secretary Pat Harris, who has been one of the driving forces behind the project since serious discussions began more than 15 years ago.
“Everyone who has been in here, whether to work or to come to see the legislature at work or for any reason really, knows what a weak, sad, old building this really is,” Harris said of the current State House, which is a repurposed highway department building.
The new building’s interior design hasn’t been completed yet, but Harris said some aspects are known. He said the new building will feature committee meeting rooms that can seat 200-plus and areas within the building where constituents and protestors can gather. The Committee released diagrams of the second and fifth floors, which show the committee meeting rooms and the new chambers for the House and Senate.
“Right now, if people want to come and protest or to just draw attention to an issue, they basically have to stand in the middle of Union Street,” Harris said. “The overall design of this (new) building is more functional.”
There will also be features outside of the building. A 300-car parking deck will sit below ground between the new building and Union Street and will be topped by a pavilion that can host various events. There also will be a small amphitheater.
“Our biggest goal with this is to design a building that allows for citizens to come in and participate in their government,” Harris said. “The current building is not great for that, and everyone knows it. I’m proud of where we are so far and I think it will be a building that we can be proud of and that will allow the people of the state to be more involved in what goes on here.”