Repairs mean changes on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis

Utility construction workers from CPF LLC break through the concrete on Bladen Street next to the State House building to begin phase one of a steam line repair project on the Annapolis government campus on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Howard R. Fletcher/Capital News Service)
Contractor Thomas Doyle and an employee of HilGartner Natural Stone Co. Inc. start to plan their strategy to disassemble Lawyers Mall to make room for steam line repair on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Howard R. Fletcher/Capital News Service)
New steel pipes, equipment, and fencing will be redirecting traffic on Bladen Street for at least a year, the estimated time to complete this part of the project, on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Howard R. Fletcher/Capital News Service)

By Howard R. Fletcher

ANNAPOLIS — Statues of Thurgood Marshall and three companions are being sent away from Lawyers Mall in Annapolis, and it’s for their own good.

The Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve emergency funding for an underground infrastructure replacement project.

The project involves replacing underground steam, chilled water and condensate pipes, installing concrete vaults and electrical junctions, and other related underground utility work along Bladen Street and beneath Lawyers Mall.

This will mean major changes to Lawyers Mall over the next year or two, the Maryland Department of General Services said. The mall will fully close in January 2019 is expected to reopen in late 2020, according to an emergency alert on the department’s website.

“Making the repairs under Lawyers Mall will require the removal of the four Marshall memorial statues, the colonnade and entablature (the columns and pediment), and any other related artwork or stonework on Lawyers Mall,” said Elaine Rice Bachmann, secretary of the State House Trust, an organization created in 1969 to oversee the area inside State Circle in Annapolis.

Dismantling Lawyers Mall and securing the statues is scheduled to commence on Monday, Bachmann said.

The statues are depictions of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; two children representing the Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional; and Donald Gaines Murray, who was successfully represented by Marshall in his case to integrate the University of Maryland law school in 1935, Bachmann said.

The sculptor of the memorial, Toby Mendez, will be involved in the entire process of disassembling and reassembling the mall, Bachmann said.

“All of the artwork will be secured and stored at the State Archives storage facility in Woodlawn, Maryland,” Bachmann said.

The State House Trust is considering displaying interpretive panels to temporarily replace the Marshall memorial during the construction period, and hopes to include historical information about Marshall on the panels, as well as facts on the design of the memorial, Bachmann said.

“The trust’s goal is to make sure that visitors are aware of the Thurgood Marshall Memorial, why it has been temporarily removed, and the estimated date of its return,” she said.

The Department of General Services is responsible for maintaining alternate locations for planned demonstrations and rallies while Lawyers Mall is fully closed.

“The construction of Lawyers Mall will continue during the legislative session,” said Nick Cavey, director of communications for the department. “During the construction period, DGS will provide alternate locations for demonstrators.

“DGS will also provide directional signage to the alternate locations,” Cavey said.

It’s no known yet where those alternate locations will be, since plans related to the project are ongoing, Cavey added.

Utility contractors have started the process of breaking through the stone and asphalt of Bladen Street to begin replacing the underground infrastructure.

“We’ve been hammering and digging out here for almost two weeks now,” Mark Fanelli, a superintendent on the job, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service on Tuesday. “It’s been blazing hot almost every day, but we are just kinda used to it.”

“This first phase of the project is estimated to last at least a year and includes the utilities from the front of the House Office building across College Avenue,” said Cavey. “The current project replaces the oldest remaining section of a steam distribution system installed in the 1990s with some portions replaced in 2005 and 2011.”

During construction next to the House Office building, traffic is being rerouted around State Circle or onto College Avenue. Moving forward, areas of Lawyers Mall will also be closed, according to the DGS.

“There’s no question that the deferred maintenance over the last 20 or 30 years is now coming home to roost,” said a frustrated Gov. Larry Hogan at an Aug. 22 Board of Public Works meeting. “And we’re doing everything we can to start fixing these problems that should have been fixed 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s very expensive and we can’t do it overnight.”

Phases I and II of the project will cost the state $3,328,850, according to the contract approved at Wednesday’s meeting. Both stages of the project will involve the State House building and Lawyers Mall areas of the Annapolis campus. CPF LLC, of Prince Frederick, Maryland, won the bid for both phases.

State officials have projected the cost of the entire project to be much steeper.

“The original estimate of $7.5 million only addressed the steam line infrastructure; the estimated budget of approximately $11 million … (includes the) design and construction of Lawyers’ Mall.”

The project has been in state construction plans since 2013, and it is in the 2019 fiscal year capital budget as a stand-alone project under the Board of Public Works, Cavey said.

The steam piping and chilled water systems around the Capitol developed leaks in multiple areas in recent years, according to the Department of General Services.

The leaks caused the central plant, the power hub of the Annapolis campus, to add thousands of gallons of water to the systems daily to keep them operational, according to Board of Public Works documents.

These leaks are forcing the cooling and heating systems to function well beyond normal operating capacities, Cavey said.

“Not replacing the steam distribution system will eventually result in an operation failure to produce heat or hot water for the entire Annapolis campus: the State House, Senate Office building, House Office building and Government House,” Cavey added.

The State House Trust is considering rebuilding Lawyers Mall — a popular gathering place for demonstrations and public assemblies — with improvements.

“It will give us the opportunity to address some areas we couldn’t without taking the whole mall apart such as: new lighting, making it more accessible for the handicapped, and updated security considerations,” Bachmann said.

Other funding and contracts approved at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting included:
— An emergency $176,400 construction contact to Retro-Environmental to raze three buildings damaged by fire at the O’Farrell Youth Center in Marriottsville, Maryland.
— Four emergency construction contracts totaling $1,387,104 to remove debris, for building repair, and to replace destroyed equipment that resulted from water infiltration during flooding at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, Maryland, in May.
— Correct Rx Pharmacy Services Inc. was granted a $52,999,231 extension to its current contract, until December 2019, for an inmate pharmacy program.

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