Once expected to open to Congress some time after the main Capitol Visitor Center debuted, the two large Congressional expansion spaces have in the past year or so fallen behind schedule at a slower rate than the main portion of the CVC project.
Despite the fact that the original completion date for the expansion spaces has already passed, the House and Senate areas are now expected to be completed by early August, ahead of the rest of the center.
But that doesn’t mean the House and Senate should plan on moving staff into those spaces — which cost a combined $70 million and total about 85,000 square feet — before 2008. To save effort and money on the massive fire alarm and life-safety testing process, the Architect of the Capitol is planning to test the emergency systems of both the main CVC and expansion spaces at the same time. Therefore, occupancy of both aspects of the center is expected to happen at the same time.
When they finally do open, the expansion spaces will add unique facilities and services that the leaders of each chamber tailored to serve their individual needs.
While Congress ceremonially broke ground on the CVC in the summer of 2000, the “fit out” of the expansion spaces wasn’t given the green light until after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A large portion of the House space will be devoted to a new 3,500-square-foot hearing room, “second only in size to the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room,” according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. Two large caucus rooms also will be included in the House space. As with all the chamber’s room assignments, the Speaker’s office will have final say over which committees will use those spaces.
The bottom floor of the three-story section will include new work space and, according to plans developed under the Republican majority, that space will go to the House Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.
Additional rooms for the House Radio/TV Gallery also will be included in the expansion space.
According to the CRS report, the Senate space will include an expanded and updated recording studio along with space for the Office of Senate Security, which handles classified materials. It also will have “climate-controlled storage facilities for the Senate gift shop and curator’s office, both of which currently have to go off campus to store sensitive artwork and other items.” The Senate’s closed-captioning service, which falls under the Secretary of the Senate, also will have room in the expansion space, and there will be six new meeting rooms.
The CRS report adds that a portion of the Senate space “will remain unoccupied to allow for future needs.”
Looking ahead to the expansion space occupancy process, which will take place in fiscal 2008, House and Senate managers are making adjustments to their legislative branch budget requests.
House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard recently asked appropriators for money to hire one new full-time employee for the House Radio/TV Gallery, which will be located in the expansion space.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, who oversees the Senate Recording Studio, said in testimony submitted to the Appropriations Committee that the studio will be looking to hire two new employees and migrate most of its staff into the CVC over the next year and a half.
“The Studio anticipates moving all aspects of its operation, including the engineering shops, the Senate Television operation, Studio production and post-production facilities, committee broadcast services, and all administrative and management offices to the CVC by September 1, 2008,” Gainer said in his written testimony.