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New Alabama State House design documents show expanded footprint, amenities

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Alabama Daily News – By Alexander Willis

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Legislative Council heard new details Wednesday about the new Alabama State House, including schematics that show the building will have an expanded footprint, more square footage in both the House and Senate chambers and several new amenities.

“It’s going to be a timeless building, it’s going to be here for 150 years and we’re going to be proud of it,” said Bill Wallace, lead architect on the project, told the panel of lawmakers. “It’s going to fit seamlessly with the capitol complex.”

Bill Wallace with the Montgomery-based engineering firm Goodwyn Mills Cawood speaks during a May 1 meeting at the Alabama State House.

Construction on the project started last September, and is expected to be complete by the end of 2025, Wallace said. However, when considering the installation of voting equipment, security measures, furnishings and more, lawmakers aren’t expected to actually move into the building until January of 2027.

Othni Lathram, secretary of the Legislative Council, told Alabama Daily News the project is expected to not exceed $300 million, but that there will also be an additional $100 million expense for secondary construction components, including demolition of the existing State House, furnishing and construction of a green space and a parking deck.

Lawmakers currently have $40 million allocated to the project between the General Fund and education supplemental budgets for the current fiscal year. Lathram told ADN that as of now, there are no specific plans for allocations toward the project in the future.

The council, which operates the current State House, agreed last year to have the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which has extensive construction experience around the state, build the new site. The council will lease the building with an option to buy it. The retirement system will get an 8% return on its investment.

With seven floors, Wallace took members of the council – which consisted of a mix of Alabama House and Senate members – level by level of the proposed facility, starting with the ground level.

The ground level of the proposed State House.

According to design documents produced by Goodwyn Mills Cawood, the Montgomery-based engineering firm tasked with designing the project, the building will have three entrances; two on the north side and one on the west, the front of the building that will face toward the Capitol. The ground level floor will also house a large multi-purpose room on the north side that spills out to an outdoor plaza, a suite for the governor, an executive budget office and an outpost for the Secretary of State.

Both lawmakers and members of the public entering the building will enter on the ground level into what Wallace described as a three-story-tall lobby, with the center space extending to the third floor, dubbed the second level.

“When you first enter the building, they’ll be those magnetometers like you have now that allow you to pass through into a main three-story element,” he said. “That’s going to connect the public to the two floors above that which are where the committee rooms are.”

The ground level will also host one of the facility’s two parking areas – the second being on the first floor – which will together have a vehicle capacity of between 400 to 500, and be on the facility’s east side, away from the Capitol.

On the first level, which will be visible below from the ground level and accessible by staircase, there will be six small committee rooms with a capacity for around 100 people, plus U-shaped desks for up to 16 lawmakers to sit at when holding meetings, Wallace said.

The first level of the proposed State House.

The second level will have larger committee rooms – both medium and large sized – with the three committee rooms on the west side of the floor having sloped floors. The large committee rooms, Wallace said, would have a capacity for about 200 guests, and seating to accommodate up to 26 lawmakers. On the east side away from the Capitol, the second level will also have a large, T-shaped wing to house office space, an inclusion that is carried over for the next three subsequent floors.

The second level of the proposed State House.

The third level will largely be empty – minus the T-shaped eastern wing of the facility – as the second level extends a floor with its high ceilings.

The third level of the proposed State House.

On the fourth level, two large House and Senate majority caucus rooms will be in the center of the floor, surrounded by suites for the speaker of the House, Lt. Governor, and other House and Senate leadership positions. Like the previous two floors, the fourth level will also have a T-shaped wing on the east side of the facility for offices.

The fifth level of the proposed State House.

Level five will have both the House and Senate chambers on the north and south side of the floor, respectively, both of which would be substantially larger than the current State House’s chambers.

The House chamber will be 4,215 square feet, up 24% from the existing House chamber’s 3,400 square feet. Another difference will be that, unlike the current House chamber, the new House chamber will not have sloped floors. The Senate chamber would increase in size by just over 10%, from 2,720 to 3,000 square feet, and neither chamber would have any pillars to cut off lines of sight.

Lines of sight, in fact, were taken into great consideration when designing the project, Wallace said.

“We have almost like a theater consultant, and they’re helping us with sightlines; from the gallery up above, but also from the individual desks,” he said.

The sixth level of the facility will house the galleries for the House and Senate chambers, which will be visible from the floor below. In the House gallery, capacity will be increased from 135 in the existing House gallery to 146, including five handicap seats, of which there are none in the existing House gallery.

In the Senate gallery, capacity will be increased from 121 to 140, and will also include handicap seating. Those in the gallery will not only be able to view the floor below, but upwards beyond the ceiling level thanks to a central dome that adorns the building.

“What you’re going to be able to see on this level is the dome above and the chambers below, so it’ll be almost a three-story space looking from the chamber level up through the gallery level up into the dome,” Wallace explained.

Construction on the new Alabama State House on May 1.

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