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Garage Repairs Give Birth to Florida Capitol Memorial Plaza

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INSTITUTIONAL – What began as a project to remedy structural damage on the Florida Capitol grounds has potential to be a development that could birth new impressions of a nearly 200-year old Capital City.

It is not as if Tallahassee needs much help revitalizing itself these days – the private sector seems busy taking care of that part just fine. There’s new construction nearly everywhere you look in this city of approximately 200,000, also home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University. They’re building everything from fast food restaurants and mattress stores to huge hospital expansions, solar farms, outlet malls, and massive master planned communities.

Tallahassee is buzzing with economic development, showing all of the signs of a thriving, growing community.

In recent years various key points of interest, particularly those owned and managed by government entities are seeing much needed improvements, many of which proving, one after the next, to have two-fold benefits.

The latest example of such an improvement is the rehabilitation of the Florida Senate Garage which has given birth to the “Capitol Memorial Park” a new interactive plaza created as a result of a project to remove over 7,300 tons of soil and vegetation from above the Senate & House garages. Over the past two years over 150 trees were removed from the surface above the legislative chamber garages on the massive 11-acre, 1 million SF state government office complex due to the discovery of a “life safety” concern which was identified by structural engineers regarding root-damage that was impacting the integrity of the parking structures beneath. The parking garages have been closed for the same period of time while crews have been busy rehabilitating the structures.

The budget for repairs is north of $20 Million.

Structural integrity issues have been mostly addressed at this point. According to Ajax Building Corporation, the general contractor for this project:

“During February, all sides of the garage have reached the full depth excavation… Waterproofing wall preparation has been completed everywhere except for the Madison Street entrance which will take place at the beginning of March. All of the light column bases have been poured on both deck levels. …The waterproofing materials were delivered to the site and began on the North side. Waterproofing continued on the East and West sides up the wall the first 8 feet. …Backfill began on both the North and Monroe Street sides and will continue around the structure. Waterproofing will continue for the next couple months.”

Like the stormwater management facility that we see as Cascades Park, this won’t be seen as a foundation and parking garage repair by the general public.  People will notice Capitol Memorial Plaza as a project to make their visit to the Florida capitol more comfortable and memorable. This, however, is merely a fortunate side effect of a necessary structural repair.

Artist rendering showing what future monuments could look like at the Capitol Memorial Park when the project is complete. | Hoy Stark Hagan Architecture

Plans call for the replanting of more than 10 live oak trees throughout the plaza and 67 sabal palmetto trees, Florida’s State Tree, to honor each county in Florida but don’t stop there. Renderings show improved open plaza areas with additional gathering spaces, improved pedestrian circulation, new lighting, new landscaping and pads for the placement of monuments at various locations throughout the property – possibly the makings of an outdoor museum serving as an extension of the Old Capitol Building museum which honors the history of Florida government and the diversity of the state’s heritage in industry, arts, exploration and tourism.

Some monument features have already been sculpted into the design of the plaza, others remain to be determined at present date. It is apparent, however, that those wising to visit Florida’s capitol complex in Tallahassee will soon have more than Spanish Moss and candy stripes to entertain them — Capitol Memorial Plaza will be littered with opportunities to experience, learn about and discover the unique character of America’s 3rd largest state.

Floridians can look for the completion of this project in October of 2018.

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