The Kansas Legislature's building committee agreed Monday to seek passage of a budget amendment allowing a state agency to study viability of options for retaining a portion of Docking State Office Building.
The basement of Docking contains industrial-sized equipment to heat and cool state government buildings in the Capitol Complex, but most of the high-rise building has been unoccupied since the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback moved hundreds of state workers to other locations in Topeka in preparation for demolishing the structure.
The Legislature blocked demolition of Docking and forced Brownback to back out of a contract to build a new energy center north of the Capitol.
There appears to be interest among members of the joint House and Senate committee in lowering the building and retaining the HVAC systems, but it isn't clear whether the building would be taken down to grade level, or whether several floors would be renovated or new levels constructed.
"Irregardless of what decision happens above grade, I think there's a lot there to work with. It does need some TLC and a few upgrades," said Frank Burnam, director of facilities management in the Kansas Department of Administration. "We're really excited about opportunity to have future discussions and finally make some decisions about what to do above grade and how that best serves the state, city and taxpayers."
Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina and chairman of the committee, said work of consulting engineers and architects would help the state sort through options for the building when the Legislature convened in January 2020.
"Several things we've kind of coalesced around," he said. "Most of us agree, even if it's not everyone, that we want to preserve at least energy center. To spend $22 million on a new one would not be a good use of resources."
He said the state should consider options for preserving up to four stories above ground and to have consultants evaluate potential of establishing retail businesses in the structure.
The state might include in the evaluation the prospect of placing apartments on upper floors of a renovated Docking building, said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.
"I certainly appreciate the study," said Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat. "I also recognize that a number of individuals involved with the Kansas Preservation Alliance and some other preservation groups are very interested in not only the art but the architecture of this building."
Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka, said the state also could explore potential of leasing space to Shawnee County or Topeka agencies in a rehabilitated Docking.