CVC Watch

Posted August 31, 2007 at 6:31pm

While Members returned to their homes in August, construction crews remained hard at work at the Capitol Visitor Center, putting an array of aesthetic touches on the facility and cleaning up in preparation for inspections. [IMGCAP(1)]

About 97 percent of the construction work is complete, according to CVC spokesman Tom Fontana. And most of what’s left involves making the CVC a livable, workable environment — such as painting walls, installing carpet and putting in lighting fixtures.

Cleanup crews spent much of the month removing protective floor covering from spaces throughout the facility, including the entrance zones, the Exhibition Hall, the restaurant, the Great Hall and several lobbies, corridors and stairwells.

Construction is nearly finished in the Great Hall, the 20,000-square-foot space that will serve as the main hall of the CVC complex. It will be renamed Emancipation Hall if legislation approving the change is passed.

Water pumps for two fountains at the base of staircases on the east side of the hall have begun running. If all operates as planned, masons will be able to complete stone work in the fountains — marking the completion of all finishes in that hall.

Another place where those aesthetic touches are evident is the CVC’s Exhibition Hall.

The space is designed to give visitors a brief history of the Capitol complex while showcasing exactly what the legislative branch does. The space combines large photo backdrops that are showcased in six alcoves with 40 to 50 important historical documents housed in the “Wall of Aspirations.”

The backdrops already have been installed and include snapshots of the two chambers throughout history. Other photos include a shot of former Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.), the first woman elected to the House.

Crews also completed architectural and decorative finishes at the virtual House and Senate theaters, which will show short films highlighting the history and culture of the two chambers and include a live feed from the floors.

And crews also spent August working on the 580,000-square-foot complex’s restaurant. Masons almost have completed installation of stone countertops, which will mark the last finishing work there. Stone installation also wrapped up in the CVC’s 26 restrooms.

Outside of the facility, everything old is new again, as the Capitol’s historic lanterns, fountains and seatwalls have been reassembled and put back in their original spots.

Thirty-four of 85 new trees on the East Front Plaza have been planted, with a goal of re-creating the original landscape plan designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1870s.

Once construction work wraps up by mid-fall, final testing on the CVC can begin.

Although initial testing and balancing has been completed, the final testing process is expected to take some time, as the fire- and life-safety systems at the CVC are among the most complex ever designed.

When CVC Project Manager Bernard Ungar testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in July, he said the testing process could take up to a year.

And while some Architect of the Capitol officials maintained at that hearing that the CVC will open in September 2008, others suggested November 2008 is more likely.