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Utah State Capitol projects will make it more water-wise

By Ben Winslow

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    SALT LAKE CITY (KSTU) — The Utah State Capitol complex is undergoing some construction that will make it more water-wise.

The central plaza, an area between the Capitol itself and the House and Senate buildings, is being torn up. It had some waterproofing problems.

“We could do a rehabilitation to buy about 20 years or we could do a complete demo and rebuild which would buy us about 75 to 100 years,” said Michael Ambre, the assistant director of special projects for Utah’s Division of Facilities and Construction Management.

It’s now being redesigned.

“It afforded us the ability to rethink about how the space is used from a visitor standpoint to a wedding and event-type scenario. Plus we also looked at water-wise, right? Reduce the use of water,” Ambre said.

The space will continue to have a reflecting pool in the center, but will feature less turf and more trees and landscaping pavers.

“We have done a 42% reduction in the plan for the new central plaza,” said Dana Jones, the executive director of the Capitol Preservation Board, which oversees the Utah State Capitol grounds.

It is part of a larger redesign of the Utah State Capitol grounds that includes a new state history museum currently being built north of the Capitol (replacing the old Utah State Office Building). When that is done in 2026, it will include a new route for tourist and school buses and another plaza on the grounds.

Under orders from Governor Spencer Cox, the Capitol grounds have cut water use to set an example in the ongoing drought. It’s why the famed South Lawn looks a little brown these days. The lawn will stay, Jones said, because the grass is “functional.” That’s grass that is used by people and animals, unlike “nonfunctional turf” which is defined as lawn that isn’t used except for mowing.

“The Capitol is a park-like structure. It engages the public, it engages families. We want families and any visitor that comes up here to want to have a picnic to enjoy and take in the People’s House,” she said.

But all around the entire Capitol complex, they will “flip the strip” and remove acres of park strip grass. It will save water and also serve as a security measure.

“We will be replacing that park strip with a series of benches, boulders and bollards,” Jones said. “So it is a pedestrian protection for security and also serves as a conservation.”

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