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President Office — Press Release


November 21, 2016

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229,
LaQuisha Persak, (850) 487-5274

Senate Celebrates the Ceremonial Opening of the Renovated Senate Chamber

Historic Design Also Features Enhancements for People with Unique Abilities

Tallahassee–Former Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) today hosted a ceremonial opening of the newly renovated Florida Senate Chamber. Senators then welcomed visitors to an open house on the eve of the Senate’s 2016 Organization Session.

The 1978 Senate Chamber underwent a historic renovation following the adjournment of the 2016 Legislative Session. Prior to the renovation, only minimal updates, including those necessary to accommodate changes in technology, had been made since the original construction. 

In 2003, under the leadership of Senate President Jim King, the Senate entered into a contract with the Hicks Nation architectural firm in Tallahassee to begin the process of remodeling the Senate Chamber and Senate Office Building. Ultimately, the Chamber portion of the project was put on hold in favor of extensive changes to the Senate Office Building, which included the addition of committee rooms and many technology upgrades. These enhancements have proven critical to increasing public participation in the legislative process for citizens who come to Tallahassee and for others from our state and nation who view our work from afar.

“After four decades of use with only minimal updates, our chamber was showing its age,” said President Gardiner. “The worn carpet had become a safety issue. We needed new HVAC units.

We needed to incorporate current building codes and we wanted to improve accessibility for those with unique abilities. Other items, like our new voting system and robotic cameras are state of the art and were preserved and incorporated into the renovation design.”

Given the scope of the needed repairs and the fact an early 2016 Legislative Session provided an atypical amount of time for renovations, in 2015, President Gardiner reinitiated the contract with the Hicks Nation architectural firm and through a competitive selection process, procured the services of All State Construction in Tallahassee to serve as the Senate’s construction manager.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, President Gardiner appointed several Senators to a Chamber Renovation Working Group to assist in making specific decisions regarding aesthetic and historical elements of the renovation. The working group was led by President Pro Tempore Richter and included Senators Benacquisto, Braynon, Montford, Lee, and Stargel.

"The interior of the pediment behind the President’s rostrum contains the image from the great seal of the State of Florida and is a similar to the porch of the Historic Capitol. The stained glass pendant is also similar to the stained glass in the historic capitol,” said President Gardiner, “Both of these design elements were chosen by the Renovation Working Group. The group also selected the carpet, wood stain, wall color and gallery seating color and helped design the new desks.”

In total, the design team had five months to complete updates to the design documents initiated by President King and construction lasted approximately eight months and included nearly 50,000 hours of work on site and over 8,300 hours of fabrication offsite.

The egg and dart molding and the Ionic columns throughout the chamber were modeled after the Historic Capitol, as well as the 1949 chamber which was demolished in the late 1970s. Both styles have a long history in public and government buildings dating back to ancient times. Additionally, the white dome is connected to the style of the 1949 chamber, which was almost entirely white, while the state motto “In God We Trust” is displayed prominently above the President’s rostrum.

“We also worked to make the Chamber more accessible for people with unique abilities,” said President Gardiner. “Among other enhancements, a hearing loop was installed beneath the carpet, so those with hearing loss can tap directly into our sound system.”

Mrs. Victoria Q. Gaetz, who uses a wheelchair and is the wife of former Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville), helped the Senate select a portable wheel chair lift that will ensure those with physical challenges can reach the President’s Rostrum without leaving their wheel chairs. The President’s Rostrum and Secretary’s Desk platforms are wider to accommodate the use of a wheelchair for any guests, visitors, or employees who may need to access this space. Finally, the new gallery meets current ADA requirements for people with unique abilities.

“In my view, we are guests in this building and we have an important responsibility to adequately preserve and maintain areas of the Capitol complex designated for use by the Senate, but also often utilized by students and other civic groups when the Senate is not in Session,” concluded President Gardiner. “We believe the historic components of the remodel have created a timeless design that will limit the need for future renovations. We are so excited to share the finished product with the people of our state.”

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