Frankfort's Mayo-Underwood state building a nod to the past

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – An upbeat crowd packed the front foyer of the new Mayo-Underwood State Office Building for its official dedication on Wednesday.

The four-story, 385,500-square-foot building, which will house nearly 1,600 state employees, replaces the Capital Plaza Tower that loomed above downtown Frankfort for 46 years.

“It’s a special time for the people in this city,” said Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary William Landrum.

Landrum also acknowledged the building’s links to the city’s past. The new structure stands at the former site of the Mayo-Underwood School, which served Frankfort’s African-American population during the days of segregation.

“By naming the Mayo-Underwood Building, my intent was to remember and recognize what was here before, to honor the past while we move into the future,” Landrum said.

Four Mayo-Underwood graduates attended the ceremony — Barbara Lester, Barbara White, Sandra Davis and Henry Davis.

“It’s really nice,” White told The State Journal. “I graduated in 1957. I was the first female and the first African-American to be in the state register of Kentucky.”

A monument and plaque recognizing those who attended the school stands outside the entrance to the new building. Landrum encouraged the crowd to learn more about the school’s history and students.

“They’re people who represent the history of Frankfort,” he said. “Please take a moment and really look at those names and the families and the history that’s behind each one of those names.”

Craig Turner, president and CEO of CRM Companies, the project’s Lexington-based developer, praised the “beautiful, environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and employee-centric building.” He acknowledged the strong cooperation between the project’s team, and state, city and county governments. Turner said that most of the rubble from the old tower was used as the foundation for the new building.

“A lot of projects we do don’t have the impact like this one does to a community,” Turner said. Turner’s first job was with the commerce cabinet in the old tower. He was there when the building was imploded in March 2018. “As somebody that used to work in the tower, it was kind of a unique experience to take the tower down.”

The first employees will move into the Mayo-Underwood building on Oct. 28, with plans to have it filled by mid-December. After the ceremony, staff treated visitors to tours of the new building’s fourth floor.

Meanwhile, only one bid for nearly 12 acres of former Capital Plaza property, adjacent to the Mayo-Underwood Building was announced, during a bid-opening held after the dedication ceremony.

The property encompasses the former site of the Frankfort Convention Center and the land under the YMCA, the Capital Plaza Hotel and a state parking garage. It was offered to private developers with the hope of getting the land back on the local tax rolls as mixed-use residential and commercial space as envisioned by Frankfort's Downtown Master Plan.

Nancy Brownlee of the Finance Cabinet read aloud the single bid signed by Luther M. Johnson of New Frankfort Development, who proposed a bid of $1,000 for the 12-acre, two-parcel blocks.

“That’s it?” asked a few people in the crowd of about 30.

“That’s it,” Brownlee replied, saying it will be up to Landrum to approve or reject the bid.

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