Final plans for a facility to replace the bombed Murrah building are unveiled

Thursday, April 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Final plans for an office building to replace the bombed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building reveal a design similar to its predecessor but different in important ways, officials say.

The plans unveiled Wednesday include blast-resistant glass and setting the facility back from street access. Work on a design for the new facility began in late 1995 and will end when the Atkins Benham group delivers construction drawings later this month.

The General Services Administration will soon seek bids for the federal campus' construction, and a contract award for the job is expected by Aug. 1, officials said.

``It's been a long, long road to get to where we are now,'' said Tim Thury, the government's project manager.

Construction will take about two years, Thury said.

The new building and former building were designed to be energy efficient and to include state-of-the-art amenities for visitors and government workers. Both projects also included significant art features.

The differences will meet the government's latest safety standards, including setting the building back 50 feet from the closest roads. The glass will be laminated and designed to stay within its frames, even if subjected to an explosive blast.

No vehicles will be allowed to park on roads adjacent to the building.

Designer Carol Ross Barney of Chicago-based Ross Barney + Jankowski Inc. said the process of developing building plans was an educational one for her firm.

The nearly U-shaped building will connect an ellipse-shaped park to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the main downtown area beyond. Native plants will be used to landscape the site, and an open grassy meadow is planned so people can picnic.

Inside, there will be a fitness center for federal employees and a food court-type of area. Security for the building will be provided at its elevators, and not at the building's two entrances. The ground-floor tenant will provide its own security.

Progress on the building has been delayed because the government had difficulty getting commitments from local agency offices to move into the building.

Some federal employees are reluctant to return to a designated federal building.

``How would you like to go to work across the street from where 35-plus of your friends and co-workers were killed and where you were almost killed? I don't think you'd like it,'' Sherri Coleman, an employee for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote in a letter to The Daily Oklahoman.

The explosion resulted in 168 deaths and more than 500 injuries.

Thury acknowledged the unease where fielding questions Wednesday from federal agency representatives concerned about the availability of area parking. The General Services Administration continues to negotiate with a dozen potential tenants, he said.

Federal agencies previously designated to move to the building were the recruiting arms of the Army and Marine Corps, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health and Human Services Department and HUD. The Small Business Administration and the Military Enlistment Processing Command Center also have been previously designated.

The Indian Health Service dropped out of negotiations, but the Social Security Administration's appeals office is considering the building, Thury said.

Congress appropriated $40 million to buy land and construct the building.