New Jersey

Four-year, $300-M Renovation – and Evacuation – of State House Announced

Governor Chris Christie today announced that the executive portion of the State House in Trenton will be evacuated by July 1, 2017 in order to undergo a four-year, $300-million renovation of interior and exterior spaces, including new HVAC, data and health and safety systems.

“The building is a trap,” Christie said during a late morning press conference in the State House rotunda. He said there are no sprinkler and other fire suppression systems on the executive portion of the building, and many ADA and other building code violations exist.

“There is outside and inside deterioration, with windows falling out, chimneys that are structurally deficient and falling apart, and the Office of the Council to the Governor in danger of sinking and collapsing. … The building is subject to catastrophic failure in many different places,” the governor said.

During the renovation, employees and staff in the executive branch will be moved to other locations in the city.

“We want to make sure this is a place people are proud to visit and conduct business,” Christie continued.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is working in cooperation with the state on the $300 million project.

According to Willem O. Rijksen, a communications specialist within the NJ Department of the Treasury, the state will bond for the necessary funding of the State House restoration. “The renovation and preservation of historical buildings, both public and private, are generally funded through long-term debt vehicles.  The financing of the State House’s restoration will follow suit.  Treasury is currently working with EDA and stakeholders to plan the financing for the project.”

The State House, built in 1792, is the second oldest of its kind – in continuous operation –  in the nation. It developed over 18 distinct building campaigns from 1792 to 1958.  The Legislature portion of the State House underwent renovations 25 years ago, but the new project will include refurbishments to exterior portions of that area.

Christie said he wants the entrance of the State House to look as it did in the late 1800s without the “Home Depot aluminum” look that it has. “We have to respect history. … This building is a treasure passed down to us from our founding fathers; it is the centerpiece of state government.”

As a security measure, the screening of visitors to the State House, which currently occurs inside the building, will be done in a new separate space outside of the complex. There will also be museum exhibit areas for visiting students and the public to learn about New Jersey’s history.

The governor said the project is part of his administration’s ongoing plan to revitalize Trenton, which includes the demolishing of certain state buildings to return properties to the city so it can generate ratables.

“This is something only a second-term governor can do,” Christie said. Since he is expected to leave office in January 2018 (he stressed that he is completing his final term as governor unless something “extraordinary happens in the world” where his “services area needed”), Christie said “I will never work here [as governor in the refurbished building]. This is for the next governor to enjoy, but I will come back as a tourist.”

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