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Architect: Capitol renovations to begin in weeks

Work will continue until Oct.

Posted: May 15, 2013 - 9:15pm  |  Updated: May 16, 2013 - 12:09am

Renovations to the Alaska State Capitol are set to begin within the next few weeks, the president of Juneau architectural firm Jensen Yorba Lott Inc. said Wednesday.

Wayne Jensen, whose firm is under contract with the state for design work on the Capitol’s overhaul, said Juneau construction company Alaska Commercial Contractors Inc. is “supposed to start mobilizing about the end of this month.”

“I think some of the demolition is going to take place through June and July, and the restoration’s going to continue on this summer with the idea that it will be completed sometime in October,” said Jensen, referring to the removal of concrete, soil and other materials that will be replaced during the first phase of the project.

The renovation is expected to be done in at least two phases, with the first phase addressing crawlspace underneath the building — part of the seismic retrofit that is accompanying the aesthetic work — as well as repairing structural deterioration Jensen said is apparent in the portico, the Capitol’s column-flanked main entrance.

“The marble columns will stay,” Jensen said. “The upper portion is actually … limestone, and that will be removed.”

That means the part of the portico over the entrance bearing the words “Alaska State Capitol” will be taken away. Jensen said concrete beams will be installed in its place.

“The front portico won’t look as nice,” Jensen acknowledged. “It’ll look like it’s under construction. And it is.”

According to Jensen, the plan is for that part of the portico to remain unfinished until the second phase of the renovations, which will include an exterior makeover, the replacement of the building’s aging windows and other major work. That part of the project is expected to last two or three years, with most of the work being done when the Legislature — which meets from January to April every year — is not in session.

“The idea is to restore it to its original 1931 appearance, or something very close to that,” said Jensen.

The first phase of the project is scheduled to conclude in October, according to Jensen, with the second phase going out to bid late this year or early next year and starting next summer.

This year’s work will likely impact traffic on 4th Street downtown, where the Capitol is located.

Jensen said, “There will be periods where a portion of 4th Street, or maybe all of 4th Street, will have to be closed … while machinery is working in that area.”

That section of the street has been blocked off recently by work on Main Street, which intersects 4th Street at the corner where the Capitol stands.

“I think the combination of those two’s going to make it a little inconvenient,” Jensen remarked.

The Main Street reconstruction project is set to wrap up Aug. 15.

The Legislative Council, a joint committee of state legislators, approved the $1.72 million contract for the first phase of work on the Capitol last month.

Alaska Commercial Contractors President Doug Courtney was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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