Statehouse restoration under budget so far: A look inside
TRENTON — The nearly $300 million restoration of New Jersey’s Statehouse that began almost a year ago is proceeding according to plan though is now scheduled to be completed in 2022.
When Gov. Chris Christie announced the project in late 2016, he indicated it would be completed in 2021, although other information at the time had portrayed the timeline as four to five years.
“Everything is on schedule, and in terms of our budget calculations and our estimates, we are operating underneath our budget,” Raymond Arcario, the executive director of the New Jersey Building Authority, told reporters Thursday during a tour of the project.
The state Treasury Department arranged for reporters to see the status of the project because a new round of environmental remediation that will begin next week will make it off-limits for a long time.
Portions of the building have been gutted, with roughhewn timbers dating to the 1790s exposed. Partitions that divided large spaces, including the old Supreme Court courtroom, into offices have been removed, with 18th and 19th century architectural details now visible for the first time in decades.
“They were carved up into very small partitioned offices, and we have removed all of those elements and opened up the building to reveal what are the magnificent, monumental spaces that will be restored,” Arcario said.
The building has been added onto 18 times. Most of that work came more than a century ago, and Arcario said most of the touches added after the 1910s will be removed.
“Some of the elements are mid-century, and they will be removed and be replaced alongside those elements that are historic and remain from that period of time, they will be restored,” said Arcario, who said the building will be restored to how it looked between 1910 and 1920.
“The building is complete by the 19-teens and what you see now is representative of that” after walls have been removed, Arcario said. “It is also culturally a significant period of time. A lot of what remains in the building in terms of historic architecture, historic fabric, dates to that period of time.”
For the past year, things have been removed from the building and work has been done to investigate what’s above ceilings, behind walls and below floors.
“All of which informs the development of the plans and specifications, which our architects and engineers are diligently working on as we speak,” Arcario said.
Around 15 to 20 percent of the project is complete, he said. Design work is being done now. The contract for the general contractor is likely to be awarded in early 2019.
“We’re looking to restore everything that we can restore,” Arcario said. “It’s not a beautification project. It really is a project intended to restore the Statehouse. We’re intent to keep all the elements that we can possibly keep in the building.”
Arcario said the foundation will need to be underpinned in locations to provide proper support but, generally speaking, that the foundation and roof are structurally sound. Space is being identified where conduits and duct work can be placed for modern heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, electricity, tele-data, alarms and fire suppression systems.
“The expectation will be that in doing so, it’ll serve for future generations, for a long time,” Arcario said. “We’re trying to look out 50 years – which is really impossible, when you think about that. How can you plan for 50 years? But we want to be able to make sure that the building is capable of performing for this administration and for subsequent administrations.”
The state Economic Development Authority borrowed $300 million for the project, to be repaid via budget appropriations for the next 30 years.
State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said the project “clearly is needed.”
“This is a project that is necessary,” Muoio said. “I think the concerns were more about how the funding was put together, but the need is clearly here.”