AUGUSTA — The Planning Board approved a granite-and-flint-colored facade for a proposed new state office building, a color scheme board members said fits in much better with the nearby State House complex than the previous controversial proposal.

The project developer that will put two new office buildings at the former site of the state Department of Transporation maintenance facility at 109 Capitol St. presented colors Tuesday that were alternatives to the originally proposed white cement wall panels to the Planning Board.

The options were a pearl white with darker “flint” accents; a somewhat darker grayish “granite” color, also with flint accents; and a still-darker option with a main, charcoal-like color of flint with “granite” accents.

Board members clearly favored the granite and flint option, which Alison Nichols, board member, said is a better match for the stone state buildings, including the granite State House itself, which are nearby. They approved it unanimously.

However, board members were rebuffed partially when Nichols asked if the developer would add a sculpture or other art to the outdoor area of the site near the corner of Sewall and Capitol streets.

Claiborne Williams, a principal at FD Stonewater, the developer of the project, said they’ve already had to spend money on unanticipated costs, including about $80,000 for traffic mitigation efforts and additional landscaping, so the firm was reluctant to spend its money on procuring public art for the site. However, he said they would leave a spot where public art could go, if the city or another entity wishes to purchase art and place it there.

The Planning Board approved the controversial proposal to build two new office buildings on Capitol Street near the State House in August, but it included a condition of approval requiring the developer to come back to the board with some alternate exterior designs and colors they hoped would improve the appearance of the larger building and make it a better fit for such a prominent location.

Michael Schwartz, of HGA Architects and Engineers, said architects, in designing the new building, used the nearby State House and Burton M. Cross state office buildings as inspiration. He also said the granite and flint option, when they put up the different-colored wall panels, “is definetley the one that starts attaching itself to the state complex a little bit more directly.”

The board first reviewed the project in late July, tabling it because of concerns that its design, aesthetically, wasn’t up to the standards warranted for such a highly visible location so close to the State House complex, and because of concerns about traffic it could bring to surrounding streets. They approved it, with conditions, in August after the developer of the project, Virginia-based FD Stonewater, added a small park with a short walking path, benches, trees and grass to the property at the corner of Capitol and Sewall streets, in a spot that the original proposal used for more parking spaces.

The proposed project includes two new buildings — one a three-story 104,000-square-foot building that would be leased to the state for offices; the other a 26,000-square-foot building that would be leased to the Maine Public Employees Retirement System — as well as, originally, a 675-space parking lot, at the former site of the state Department of Transportation’s maintenance facility at 109 Capitol St.

Changes meant to address board members’ concerns about the aesthetics of the initial proposal included removing 2-inch ornamental metal fins that were in a vertical line in between windows of the building.

Board member A. Delaine Nye said removing the fins was a big improvement.

Nichols suggested not having to install the fins could possibly free up money that could be spent on art instead.

However, Williams said the firm already had “a lot of costs we didn’t think we were going to have” on the project.

The board’s approval conditions do not require the firm to add any public art to the site.

The current retirement system building would be torn down as part of the project.

Former DOT buildings on the upper part of the site, where the Maine PERS building will be built, already have been demolished. Representatives of the developer said the building for Maine PERS would be built first, so workers there can move to the new building and, in turn, the existing Maine PERS building can be torn down to clear space for the main new building, which will be occupied by state office workers.

David Heidrich Jr., communications director for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said about 520 state employees would move into the new building when it is completed, which is projected to be by July 2019. He said the vast majority of employees moving there work for the Department of Health and Human Services, most of whom now work at state owned office buildings at 221 and 242 State St.

The plan is the state’s latest effort to get rid of the old, big, green DOT facility, vacant since October 2014, when the department moved its maintenance operations from there to a new facility in north Augusta at 66 Industrial Drive.

Betsy Poulin, deputy city planner, said a traffic movement permit required for the project has been drafted. She said the permit will require the developer to add left-turn lanes to get into the new facility, and to get into the existing parking garage which is across Sewall Street from the project site.

The permit also states Florence Street, a narrow residential street on the upper end of the project site, must be widened to 24 feet from the project entrance on that end to Capitol Street.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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