Design work begins on new Capitol Complex building _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MARSHA SHULER -- Excavation work continues Friday on the site of the old state Department of Insurance building. It's part of planning and design work for a new legislative building.

Planning and design work has begun on a new legislative building, for which $30 million has been earmarked in the state construction program.

The building is scheduled to be constructed on the site of the long-demolished Department of Insurance building on Fifth Street near the State Capitol.

Work crews have been on-site excavating the area to expose original building pilings so tests can be run on site conditions as the planning goes on.

The building is scheduled to be the future home of the Legislative Auditor’s Office. According to the Legislature’s website, the mission of the office is “to foster accountability and transparency in Louisiana government by providing the Legislature and others with audit services, fiscal advice and other useful information.”

The Auditor’s Office operates out of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal building as well as other state office space.

The old insurance building was demolished 12 years ago after the offices moved to a new building across the lake from the State Capitol. A parking structure remains on the site, which is used by Capitol visitors and employees.

Various uses for the property have been suggested through the years, including legislative office space. Louisiana senators have offices in the State Capitol, but state representatives do not have individual offices unless they are committee leaders.

At the time of the building implosion, there was talk of construction of a parking garage to hold 350 to 400 vehicles.

The architect on the project is Coleman Partners, of Baton Rouge. Funding for the project is authorized through the Legislative Budgetary Control Council — jointly operated by the House and Senate.

The legislative building is the latest project development in the State Capitol Complex.

Work continues on the second phase of a Capitol security upgrade that will cost at least $6 million.

The first phase already has tapped $4.76 million. It included rerouting traffic away from the Capitol and installation of guard shacks and metal bollards to cordon off parking closest to the State Capitol from the public.

The second phase converts the winding roads on either side of Arsenal Park from one-way to two-way streets with roundabouts at either end of the park. In addition, the project includes resurfacing of State Capitol parking and conversion of Fifth Street by the Capitol into one-way traffic headed from Spanish Town Road toward the Arsenal.

Barber Brothers Contracting Co. landed the contract with a $1.39 million bid. The contract already has been increased by $43,000 related to pouring of concrete near Capitol parking entrances.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage from the State Capitol, follow Louisiana politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/