New Jersey Statehouse building reopens after nearly $300 million renovation
TRENTON, NJ (AP) — The New Jersey Statehouse building, part of which dates to the 1700s and was called a fire trap, is open again after a nearly six-year, nearly $300 million renovation. dollars in taxpayers’ money.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and his administration began re-entering the building last week, and work remains to be done on the building’s facade. It’s unclear when the public will once again have access to the executive wing of the building, where the renovations took place.
This work revealed giant skylights that have been buried under plaster ceilings added for years, with huge nets to catch falling debris and bins to catch leaking rainwater.
The dormer windows have been restored for functional use and the building has been designed to adhere to its appearance in the early 1900s when the last major addition was made.
Other changes include the addition of modern sprinkler and fire alarm systems, new heating and air conditioning systems, a hand-dug foundation that the building was previously missing, internal fire escape stairwells to replace exterior versions that were falling, new windows and many cosmetic changes.
The building previously had cracked paint and exposed wires, window units for air conditioning and winter steam heating that frequently malfunctioned.
Around the building on Tuesday, state employees settled into their new workspaces.
State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio was among them, still sorting through boxes and unhung frames.
She found, she says, that a photo someone gave her of former President John F. Kennedy speaking from the state house reflects the current view from the window of his new office.
Former Governor Chris Christie announced the project in late 2016, saying the project was necessary because the building was unsafe – he called it a “fire trap” at the time.
Funding was secured in May 2017. Shortly after, three years of work began to prepare the building for renovation, including the removal of asbestos, layers of paint and numerous drop ceilings, walls and other accessories.
The renovation stage took another three years and meant that Murphy was moved to a nondescript office block on the street, and school visits could not follow their usual routes through the old building.
Murphy was eager to return to the building, mentioning that the renovation was nearly complete in his budget speech earlier this year.
“It took hard work to build this capital. It took more work to rebuild it,” he said. “And it’s a most New Jersey story.”
There is still work to be done, in particular the shoring of a portico at the front of the building, which remains hidden by beams and wooden planks. An external security structure, to screen visitors, is also being developed.