Fate of the Docking building has lingered too long. It's time for Kansas lawmakers to make a decision.
The Docking State Office Building was designed with someone like Don Draper in mind.
Just take a look at the photo gallery The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Evert Nelson made and you’ll get a sense of what we’re talking about. Its design is straight out of “Mad Men.” The ventilation system was even conceived with smokers in mind.
But it’s current state is more like Draper’s real identity Dick Whitman — a sad state. The 14-story midcentury structure in the Capitol Complex once housed many of the state’s agencies. Today it sits mostly vacant. It hasn’t had a major renovation since its construction in 1957.
It’s time to fix that.
Former Gov. Sam Brownback tried to demolish the building in 2016. When the Legislature stalled that plan, Brownback then made deals for multi-decade contracts for state workers to move their offices across Topeka — essentially turning the Docking building into a 14-story quagmire. But in all honesty, the space was a quandary long before that.
Legislators have debated what to do about the building — which honors Gov. Robert Docking — for more than a decade.
"Everyone has ideas, and some of them are great ideas and some of them are ideas that have really just slowed this process down," said Sen. J. R. Claeys, R-Salina. "But at the end of the day, we're at that kind of critical moment where we can make a good decision."
The Kelly administration has put together plans to move forward into the modern needs of Kansas.
The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl reported that lawmakers are weighing their options on the building's long-awaited renovation, with a final decision expected later this year. Current proposals call for a renovation of the entire building (the top two floors aren't ADA compliant) or a separate plan to reduce its size to three floors, with three new floors added on top of the structure.
In all honesty, we don't know what the best option is. Both sound realistic to us, so we'll yield to the experts. Both plans appear to address various needs facing the state.
So from where we stand, let’s do something to make progress. The building has stood tall and mostly empty for far too long.
We implore lawmakers to thoughtfully consider the plans proposed by the Kelly administration and put one into action. It just makes sense.
We’ll leave you with some parting advice from Draper himself: “Make it simple, but significant.”