Capitol Welcome Center Closer to Reality

Author: Joe Manzella
Date: December 30, 2014

New welcome center will make restoration efforts complete

The Michigan Capitol Commission has voted to take the first step toward making a welcome center a reality for the State Capitol. A visitor/welcome center was first envisioned during the restoration in the late 1980’s, but never made a reality.

“Given the amount of visitor traffic the Capitol receives, it’s taking a toll on the building which is reflected in maintenance costs,” said Michigan Capitol Commission Chair Carol Viventi. “This planned welcome center will provide a better and more secure way for visitors to enter the building. It also provides enhanced education opportunities for school groups.”

Security concerns have changed significantly since the Capitol building was restored. A new welcome center will be able to include the latest in security technology while still maintaining and supporting the historic Capitol. While the Michigan Capitol Commission is committed to maintaining public access to the building, this new addition will allow for continued access while at the same time enhancing security for the visiting public.

“I’m glad to hear this project is finally moving forward. The restoration we undertook 25 years ago has been recognized nationally. I remain proud of that work. The Capitol building houses our state government and serves the people of Michigan. Today’s vote is the continuation of a plan that was developed 30 years ago, so it is exciting to see it moving ahead,” said former Governor John Engler.

The plan envisions a visitor entrance from the west lawn as well as a bus drop off and group visitor entrance on Walnut Street. In addition, all parking that is currently on a surface lot behind the building will be moved underground, thus restoring the park on the west side of the Capitol as it was originally designed by Elijah Myers.

As a part of the new center, there will be a large committee room facility that will accommodate meetings and events that the current Capitol building cannot accommodate. In addition, there will be new education briefing rooms and a cafeteria. The new center will serve as an historical and educational section of the Capitol.

“I’m glad to see plans moving forward to complete the restoration plans for this wonderful building. While it is the place we do our legislative work, it’s also one of our best education tools regarding Michigan history. This plan will take some of the daily traffic to other areas of the building, which will help with preservation efforts,” said Capitol Commission Co-Chair Gary Randall.

This is a marvelous building that has won numerous awards for restoration. This kind of stewardship should make Michiganders proud. The fact that this will lead to more educational opportunities for kids is definitely what we should be looking toward,” said Capitol Historian Kerry Chartkoff.

Once financing is secured, plans call for groundbreaking in the summer of 2015, with completion of the project by fall of 2017 at a cost of approximately $88 million. Initial renderings are complete, but changes and improvements are expected as plans are finalized.