House panel debates bill to sell office buildings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote Friday on a bill that would bill that would authorize sale of four Topeka state government buildings and possibly result in the demolition of the Docking high-rise across the street from the statehouse.

The committee heard debate Wednesday on the Senate-passed bill, which would place on the market the state-owned Eisenhower and Landon Buildings. Two other structures — the Curtis and Van Buren buildings — aren’t owned by the government, but the state has contract options to buy both, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1mDwBWq) reported.

Jim Clark, secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration, said the Curtis and Van Buren buildings could be acquired and disposed of, along with the two state-owned buildings.

“No decision has been made to sell any of the buildings,” Clark said. “The department will consider the sale and lease back of each building individually as well as selling the entire portfolio to one investor.”

The buildings house hundreds of state employees, most of whom would be relocated because leasing is less expensive than owning and can help slash overall expenses, Clark said.

Clark has proposed razing the Docking building because developers told the state they didn’t see renovation as a profitable option. Proposals for tearing down and renovating the 57-year-old structure have been discussed at the Capitol for more than a decade, he said.

Under the measure, state or local officials and their families would be prohibited from financially benefiting from the sale of any of the buildings.

Mel Borst, co-chairman of the Kansas Preservation Alliance’s endangered properties committee, urged the committee to delay action on Docking until the possibility of placing it on the state and national historic registers can be explored.

“The Docking building may be one of the finest examples of groundbreaking modern office high-rise architecture and construction in the Midwest,” Borst said. “This is a special building.”

Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, postponed a vote on the bill until Friday because of opposition raised by Democrats on the committee.

“I know there is an emotional attachment to the facility by some,” he said.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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