Senate building entrance gets $468,000 facelift

By Len Lazarick

The new courtyard under construction at the
Senate office building, with the Lowe House
Office building across Bladen Street

Workers are about finished with a months-long, $468,000 reconstruction of the entrance to the Senate office buildings in Annapolis.

The project, which felled two large magnolia trees, was approved by lawmakers in 2006 as a capital expense.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, explained to members in a June memo that “the single brick walkway entrance to the buildings often becomes very congested as members of the public attempt to enter the building and go through security.”

There were also security concerns about the high brick wall and the lack of lighting in the courtyard, according to Miller The tall wall at the sidewalk along Bladen Street has been replaced with one four feet high, and lighting fixtures will line the new walkways.

The entrance connects the William James building and Thomas V. Mike Miller building, named after the current president now in his 24th year as presiding officer. The newer Miller building houses all the Senate hearing rooms. It also contains the largest function rooms in the Assembly complex, the only ones with kitchen facilities for catering.

Victoria Gruber, Miller’s chief of staff, said there were some complaints from senators about the loss of the flowering magnolias, but they were apparently in poor health.

Dave Humphrey, spokesman for the Department of General Services that manages the buildings, said the trees “were in a deteriorating condition, and likely would not have survived the extensive re-grading that had to be done to implement drainage improvements in the courtyard.”

The grass areas around the old brick sidewalk often became muddy in the rain as hundreds of people would line up for hearings, receptions and other meetings. Much of the grassy courtyard is being replaced with concrete covered by brick.

The new courtyard will have a central corridor brick walkway, with low wall seating areas, and a new brick handicapped ramp through the north portion of the courtyard.

The rest of the courtyard area will be completed with new landscape planting, including evergreen shrubs and flowering shrubs and trees, Humphrey said.

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