Capitol Welcome Center & West Lawn

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  • LANSING – A planned summer groundbreaking for a new Capitol Welcome Center "might be a little optimistic," an official with the State Capitol Commission said Friday.

    As of Friday afternoon, the commission had not made a formal request to the Michigan Strategic Fund to issue bonds that would finance the $88 million Welcome Center announced by the commission just before New Year's Day, said John Truscott, a Lansing public relations executive and vice chairman of the commission overseeing the Capitol building.

    Truscott said the commission had spoken with Strategic Fund officials about the Welcome Center, but hadn't made a formal request because the fund was busy with other projects. Truscott said there was no timeline for when that formal request would be made, but "we will do it at some point in the future."

    http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/capitol/2015/02/20/capitol-welcome-center-may-delayed/23738917/

    Hopefully, we're talking about a few months delay and not years.
  • I don't understand why they'd be having trouble with the financing, they said at first that the bonds would be repaid entirely out of the Capitol's new maintenance budget. Either there's not really a story here or they were being disingenuous to begin with.
  • What it sounds like to me more than anything is that the capitol commission may have originally announced this without fully getting the Michigan Strategic Fund to buy into the project; perhaps they were a bit blindsided. And, so the Strategic Fund is using the Michigan Senate building project they are working on as cover. Sounds like a bit of bad blood or some personal politics between the two groups.
  • Ostensibly about renovation of the HVAC systems in the capitol - and a loopy financing mechanism at that - the part relevant to this thread is that the welcome center has no schedule for development, meaning it's just a plan on the backburner for now. Does kind of speak to the theory that the Michigan Strategic Fund wants no part of this project, particularly as they aren't even done with Capitol View.
    LANSING – The state House last week passed a pair of bills that would allow the State Capitol Commission to take on millions of dollars in debt to renovate the historic statehouse's aging climate control and electrical systems.

    The House voted 104-3 this week to approve House Bill 6047. The bill essentially allows the commission to work with the Michigan Strategic Fund to put up the parking lot on the Capitol's west side as collateral to finance the renovations. The Capitol building and iconic east lawn would not be part of the deal.

    The way collateral works, lenders or bondholders could come claim the parking lot if the state for some reason did not pay its bills, but "that's not going to happen," said John Truscott, vice chairman of the Capitol Commission.

    "This is something really just to satisfy the lawyers," Truscott said, "but the state has never not made its payments on time."

    That last sentence is some "famous last words" stuff. lol Don't jinx it. Anyway, the relevant part to this thread:
    The legislation is unrelated to the commission's hopes of building a multimillion-dollar Capitol Welcome center on the west side of the statehouse property. That plan, announced in December 2014 with an $88 million price tag and shelved shortly thereafter over budget concerns, remains on hold, Truscott said.

    "We'd still like to do it someday, but there's no plan at this time as far as timing," he said.

    "Someday."
  • Sounds like this is all but dead for now. I really hope to see this plan resurface sooner rather than later.
  • Any further information on this? I went by the west side of Capitol for the first time in a while and saw that it was completely torn up. Are they really planning to put a surface lot back there once the HVAC repairs are done? Even if they can't get the go ahead to build a multi-million dollar welcome center, couldn't they at least spend a few K's doing a decent job landscaping that side of the Capitol?

  • I wrote the director of the building about this, and for whatever reason he doesn't just want to come out and say it. But putting hundreds of wells below the lawn kind of destroys the plan to put an underground welcome center there. He told me a welcome center can go in other places. Realistically, you don't want to build it above-ground on the west lawn destroying the visual axis created by the plaza, so it'd likely have to be on that parking lot southwest of the capitol, or maybe somewhere on the walkway along the Capitol complex that would block the axis.

    Really disappointed on this one, because that would have been an absolutely awesome project.

  • I was thinking the same thing when I saw how much of the lawn they dug up, why don't they build the welcome center at the same time as this project? It's too bad that they are not planning to build the underground center. It will be very disappointing if they just put in another surface parking lot there for those lazy legislators. God forbid they should have to walk through the streets of Lansing to get to the Capitol. It would be really nice if they landscaped all four sides of the building with grass and trees to create a public green space that could serve as an outdoor welcome to The Capitol. I could see a low modern, perhaps glass structure built on either side of the pedestrian bridge over Walnut Street for a welcome/history center. It would cover up that ugly cement canyon not interfere the view, and still be near the Capitol Building. Looking at the google maps I really did not remember how big and ugly the rear parking lot was. Let's hope it is a thing of the past.

  • Well, I guess I wouldn't be too surprised, then, if they sneak a parking lot back on top of the west lawn if no-one makes much of a ruckus...

    gbd - I like the idea of a open glass structure. Perhaps it could be built as a large pedestrian bridge, spanning the concrete canyon of Walnut street, similar to rest stops on the Illinois interstates?

  • edited January 2018

    I wouldn't calling it sneaking back a parking lot. This project wasn't some renovation of the west lawn, it was an HVAC renovation. I'd be pretty surprised if they don't put back the lawn as is, because the project was never a landscaping renovation.

    I've always hated that lot. Parking seems to be working just fine without it, so you kind of wish that they wouldn't replace it. But given that it's a parking lot primarily for the legislative leadership, I'd be shocked if they don't replace it.

    Still, I'd definitely encourage you guys to contact the Michigan State Capitol Commission about this to see if you can get any more information nailed down and/or just to share your opinions. You never know who they listen to.

    http://capitol.michigan.gov/ContactCommission

    Specifically, Tim Bowlin is the project manager for projects by the commission:

    tbowlin@legislature.mi.gov

    And Robert Blackshaw is the Director of Facility Operations who oversees the day-to-day operations of the building:

    rblackshaw@legislature.mi.gov

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