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Hantman: New Building an Option

Seeking to address the ongoing shortage of office space in the Congressional Complex, the Architect of the Capitol said Tuesday his office is considering numerous solutions, ranging from the conversion of the Rayburn House Office Building garage into office space to the construction of an entirely new facility.

Testifying before the full House Appropriations Committee, Architect Alan Hantman said his office is considering “several potential options” to address the current shortcomings of the four House office buildings.

“The master plan … talks about shortcomings in terms of space needs for the House office buildings. It talks about that, over time the responsibilities of Members of the House, as well as the Senate, have grown, and that demands on staff have increased, and that the space utilization for those staffs is not near what industry standards are,” Hantman said. The Architect stated that while “industry standards” provide from 85 to100 square feet per person, House employees typically work in only 35 to 40 feet of space.

“There is a real need, on the magnitude of [600,000] to 700,000 square feet for the House,” he added.

Among the alternatives Hantman said his office will study is the conversion of the existing Rayburn Building garage into offices, hearing rooms and support facilities.

In its $506 million fiscal 2006 budget proposal, Hantman noted, the AOC is seeking $4 million to design a new House parking garage to be located opposite the Ford House Office Building, a potential replacement for the Rayburn garage.

In response to concerns raised by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) that such an office building would constitute “a pretty miserable converted space,” Hantman said windows would likely be added to the building’s outside walls.

“Alternatives to doing that certainly are building new buildings on alternative sites,” Hantman acknowledged. During the hearing, Moran cited AOC documents — “Your long-term master plan is to provide for each Member four-room suites,” he noted —which suggested such a structure could cost $465 million.

The Architect said his office would like to see the project move ahead in a five-year time period.

“All of these options need to be explored,” Hantman said. “There need to be open hearings on them. There needs to be a lot of discussion among folks on the House side.”

In the meantime, the AOC has moved ahead with construction of a new fitness center for House employees, located on the lower level of the Rayburn garage.

Construction of the facility, which had been spearheaded by Appropriations panel member Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), is slated to finish by October, Hantman said.

During the hearing, Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) noted that the combined legislative branch spending request totals $3.1 billion, an increase of $379 million, or 13.7 percent, over fiscal 2005.

Citing the 2.1 percent discretionary spending cap included in President Bush’s fiscal 2006 budget proposal, Lewis said: “It will be impossible to provide the funding requested by the legislative branch agencies.”

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