Ted Simons: A private group is making plans to renovate the Arizona State capitol. Today the building is a museum, but the Arizona capitol centennial committee wants to put it back to traditional legislative use. Last week the group asked a committee of lawmakers, known as legislative council, for permission to continue its planning and fund-raising efforts. Producer David Majure and photographer Scot Olson were there.
John Driggs: This has been a long process. It emanated when the late senator flake as speaker of the house had a vision and a dream that we needed to have a new state capitol.
David Majure: To try to realize that dream, former Mayor John Driggs formed the private centennial commission. One of its first victories is getting approval to replace the building's ancient elevator.
John Driggs: We've known all along that whatever we did with this hitoric capitol, we needed to have a new elevator. What I'm holding here is the approved plans by D.O.A. for a new elevator in the historic capitol without which a four-story building doesn't really work.
David Majure: Now the committee must find private funds have to pay for it. In the mean time It's asking legislative council for permission to develop a master plan for renovating the historic state capitol. Today it's used as a museum. But Driggs’ group invisions returning it to legislative service creating office space for legislative staff and using the Senate and House chambers as committee hearing rooms. It's an attempt to address the challenges of inadequate space in the current House and Senate buildings. In fact, early plans suggested connecting the Senate, the House and the capitol with a sky bridge at the second floor.
Akram Rosheidat: It really achieves a goal that we see as being prime in this project of bringing government back into the historic capitol under the copper dome.
Ted Simons: Here now to talk about the capitol renewal plan is former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs who chairs the Arizona capitol centennial committee. And Don Ryden, a Phoenix-based architect who specializes in historic preservation. Good to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
Don Ryden: A pleasure.
Ted Simons: Is this really the first formal acknowledgment of your plans?
John Driggs: This is the first time it's seen the light of day, although the process has been going on for almost three years with behind-the-scenes work, like the formation and the study of an ad hoc capitol task force appointed by the previous Senate president, Tim Bee, when speaker wires was speaker of the house. That group recommended that there be legislative function back into the historic capitol.
Ted Simons: With this, with what we just saw and with the legislative council kind of giving the okay apparently to renew and revise, how does that help fund-raising efforts?
John Driggs: Well, certainly we're just now -- even though there's been three years of getting to this point where we could actually go to the legislative council, that's 14 legislators chaired by speaker and president alternately. They control the state capitol completely. And they have now, after receiving memorandums and recommendations from their chiefs of staff, they had us make the presentation that we would start the process of a master plan to look at how our historic capitol -- that's the only monumental capitol we're ever going to have -- how that can be put to a greater and more effective space utilization still preserving everything that's going on in there now as far as the museum and the education program and the tours for students. All of that will even be enhanced.
Ted Simons: When you look at this building, it's a lovely building. It's fascinating when you go in there. It's old and you specialize in historic preservation. When you see that building and hear the ideas of putting it back to use, what do you think about? What are the concerns?
Don Ryden: It's a very exciting opportunity. I think one of the things that we have to be very careful about is to be able to rehabilitate the building in such a way that you can put in new technology and all of the accoutrements of our 21st century life and work and still respect the character-defining elements of the building itself.
Ted Simons: What about things like safety codes, keeping them up to code and these sorts of things?
Don Ryden: That is indeed one of our first tasks, because currently the building is not fully in compliance with safety codes. And by adding some fire stairs to the buildings and the proper positions, we'll be able to alleviate any of those dangers.
Ted Simons: I want to get back to you and money because it always comes down to money. What kind of cost are we looking at here for what you envision for the old capitol?
John Driggs: Until we complete the master plan, Ted, and we intend to do that by September, then we'll know what it will cost to do in effect the tentative improvements for the whole job. But the first phase that we want to complete in the next 18 months and maybe rededicate the capitol in 2012, our centennial, would be the main floor and just getting started. Get the elevator in, get a modern elevator in that four-story building without which the building doesn't work. So, again --
Ted Simons: I'm hearing 2 to 3 million. Is that a ballpark?
John Driggs: Just for the first phase. It may be 15 million to do everything that would be necessary. When we integrate some legislative function back in and that would include connecting the historic capitol building with the two buildings, the House and the Senate, which frankly, that's the only capitol we have.
Ted Simons: And, Don, we have a shot up on the screen right now with the arrows, kind of dotted line there showing where that connection would be. That's bold. That's a bold idea to connect the House and Senate buildings with the old capitol. Can you do it? Can that be done with a building of that age?
Don Ryden: Absolutely it can be done. In fact, we've worked closely with our friends over at the historic preservation office, state office, and they're quite enthralled with the idea. It's something that can be done and something they look forward to helping us with.
Ted Simons: Now, this would be a skyway, second floor skyway that would connect the two.
Don Ryden: Right. On the second floor, Closed walkway, air-conditioned. Secure so the the second floor of all three buildings can be connected.
Ted Simons: The rooms would have to be relocated I imagine at the old capitol. Would you have hearings at these rooms? Would they be for meetings only?
John Driggs: Chances are by relieving space, particularly in the present House building, we'll be able to expand the opportunities for better hearing rooms there. We'll be able to give legislators more effective office space with greater access to staff and, you know, the experts that they rely on for their committee work, their analysts.
Ted Simons: I'm going to get back to money on you one more time because it always comes down to money. Where does the money come from? Will the state kick in at a later date? Is it all up to you? What goes on here?
John Driggs: At the present time, and this is the condition of our whole operation right now, everything is being funded by the private sector. And with that, we'll develop the plans. Once we have the plans ready and even before that, we'll be going to the business community, foundations, literally every organization in the state and literally pass the hat if we can't raise 15 million to put our state capitol back into more effective use. When the state of Oklahoma raised 16 million from just 16 companies to put a dome on their capitol as their centennial big project, so this is something that we believe can transform government effectiveness when we get the House and Senate connected with the historic capitol that hasn't been a legislative working building for 50 years and get things working better under the capitol dome.
Ted Simons: The architecture community, what are you hearing as far as feedback here and response? It can't be done, it shouldn't be done, I want to do it, all points in between?
Don Ryden: It does go across the board. I think the architects themselves perhaps are more excited about the possibilities of it. Perhaps there are people in the community who have not understood exactly what the situation is or what the opportunities lie ahead of us. And so with that part of it is a public education component to the project.
Ted Simons: Real quickly. All things being equal, would you like to get rid of the House and Senate buildings and put something new there?
Don Ryden: No, actually not. Because those two House and Senate buildings are really part of the history of our state and the way it grew so much after World War II, which is really the beginnings of the greatness of the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. We've got to stop it right there. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Both: Thank you.