State House document room gets $2m facelift

More work remains on fourth floor space


The tab for an historic overhaul of the former “document room” at the State House has risen to more than $2 million.

According to Senate President Therese Murray’s office, spending to date for the overhaul of the fourth floor room where workers used to dispense paper copies of legislation is $2,010,052. With 2,280 square feet of space, that works out to roughly $881 per square foot.

Work is expected to continue until December, due to the installation of an energy recovery unit aimed at recycling the air in and out of Room 428, as the room is now known. Plans also call for television screens to be installed behind sliding panels.

Murray, a Democrat from Plymouth, said the room will include portable furniture and will be available for receptions, meetings, hearings, and as a substitute Senate chamber while the original receives its own overhaul.

“Looks great,” she said, as she toured the room earlier this month with members of her staff.

A golden-colored plaque installed by the room’s main entrance says the historic renovation was completed in 2014, bears Murray’s name, and notes that it was once the home of the legislative “document room,” from the early 20th century to its closing in 2009.

A bust of Wamsutta, the eldest son of Massasoit, a Wampanoag leader, sits in a glass cabinet. In the same cabinet, there is a picture of Plymouth Rock, lit up for a charity group. The items, along with paintings from the Senate Reading Room and the state library, have found a temporary home in the room.

Murray’s office provided a general breakdown of the project’s costs to date, with $715,000 spent on millwork and plasterwork; $480,000 for electrical work; $290,050 on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; $200,000 on audio/visual costs; $150,000 in demolition costs, and $10,000 for plumbing.

The room, located across the hall from the capitol press gallery and near the entrances to the Senate’s public galleries, was used for panels on health information technology during an EU-US eHealth Marketplace and Conference on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, organized in part by Murray’s office.

Before the conference, Murray gave Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr a quick tour of the room.

“It’s a very impressive space and it’s turned space that wasn’t utilized at all into something that has the potential to be incredibly productive,” Tarr (R-Gloucester) said, adding that the State House has “so many demands on its space.”

Asked about the price tag, Tarr said, “You know, those numbers always concern me, but in this case I think that there were factors that made it more costly.”

The age of the State House and structure of the room needed to be addressed, so “time will be the judge” of costs, he added. “But certainly it’s within the scope of other projects that have been done here over the years.”

David Begelfer, the CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, the commercial real estate development association, also noted the historic elements of the State House, which was built in 1798.

When someone is building a high-end condominium building, total development and construction costs come to $500 to $600 per square foot, he said, while inside the State House, there are different economies of scale.

“It’s almost like dealing with an art restoration,” he said.

“Based on the historic element of it, it doesn’t sound out of range for size and historic quality,” Begelfer added.

The House and Senate this year approved $20 million each for respective chamber renovations. Murray has said the Senate chamber needs an “extensive” overhaul, citing falling panels from the rotunda and columns that have separated from the walls.

A Murray spokeswoman said there isn’t yet a timeline for the Senate chamber work. The earliest that work can begin is next year because the project must first go out to bid, according to Laura Oggeri, the spokeswoman.

The governor’s executive offices earlier this year underwent a renovation and historical restoration that cost an estimated $11.3 million. According to the Patrick administration, the project totaled 19,000 square feet.

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In its listing of the costs of the restoration and improvements, the Patrick administration said major renovations to the State House over the last several years have totaled $110 million.

The rehabilitation also included the installation of a “command center” on the fourth floor, mimicking the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham, as well as a facial recognition system for entrances to various offices.