“We’ve created a bubble-wrap shortage on the East Coast,” said Barbara Oakes, administrator of the House of Delegates. Or at least that’s what the logistics chief for the 141 delegates and their staffs was told as they wrapped picture frames and other fragile items this week to prepare for the $9.9 million revamp of the Thomas Hunter Lowe House Office Building.
The 191,000-square-foot building opened in 1974, and now contains the offices and meeting rooms for about 80% of the delegates. After the Casper Taylor Building opened in 2006, committee chairs, vice chairs and other House leaders found their offices in that building attached to Lowe.
Delegates’ personal staff members who keep their Annapolis offices open full-time will be working out of their homes and telecommuting. If all goes as planned, those offices will be reopened after Labor Day, in time for a special session of the General Assembly on congressional redistricting expected in September or October.
The Lowe building won’t look much different since the money is being spent to “bring the building up to code,” Oakes said.
Asbestos in ceilings will be removed and a sprinkler system will be put in, which is one reason even the offices on the ground floor, renovated four years ago, must move out for about a month.
More energy efficient lighting will be installed; bathrooms and other rooms will be made handicap accessible; audiovisual systems will be added; flat roofs, gutters and downspouts will be replaced; and mechanical, plumbing and electrical upgrades will be made. Lowe will also get a new emergency generator that can handle all the electronic equipment added since the building opened 37 years ago.
The Lowe building is named after the man who served as speaker from 1969 to 1973 and then became a judge on the Court of Special Appeals. He died in 1984.
The renovation was initially planned to be done one floor at a time, but House Speaker Michael Busch told the Board of Public Works in January that the project was cheaper to do all at once.
The board, which approves all major state contracts, awarded the project to Coakley & William Construction of Gaithersburg, the same firm that renovated the State House in 2008 and the James Senate Office Building in 2003. The company also built the Miller Senate Office building, which opened in 2000.
The moving and storage for the Lowe renovation is being handled by Office Movers, part of the Kane Companies, owned by former chairman of the state Republican Party John Kane. His wife Mary Kane was the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor with ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich last year. She served as Ehrlich’s secretary of state.