Armory set for facelift

Published 11:59 am Friday, December 28, 2012

Staff Sgt. David Gansen of the 224th Transportation Company talks about some of the changes to the main entrance area of the National Guard Armory including an extra set of doors.

People who frequently drive by the National Guard Armory in Austin will notice a few changes next year, but those who frequent the inside of the building will see a lot more.

The building, built in 1964, is set to undergo major changes starting in October 2013 in an effort to make it more environmentally friendly. According to Staff Sgt. David Gansen of the 224th Transportation Company, which now uses the building, that’s one of the adjutant general’s top-six priorities. That is apparent, as well, as the project will reportedly cost $3 million, much of which will come from federal funding and various grant programs. An armory in Chisholm, Minn., will also undergo a $2-million renovation. National Guardsmen have heard rumors about the renovations for several years, but they’ve only known for the last year that they’re actually going to happen.

While the Austin building will not undergo any expansions, the changes themselves are significant and wide-sweeping. And perhaps some of the most important changes will be right where people walk inside. Preliminary plans are to change the current entryway into a double entry, so air cannot transfer. Throughout the building, one can notice where doors do not fully seal with the ground.

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Those will be replaced, and all the windows, which are original, will be replaced, too.

The National Guard Armory in Austin will be undergoing major changes late 2013 when the structure undergoes a $3 million renovation in October.

Throughout the building, people will notice new, energy efficient lighting as well, especially in the drill room and garage, where old gymnasium-style lighting was used.

“That will all be replaced with energy-efficient fixtures and bulbs,” Gansen said.

The facility currently uses about six air conditioners to cool several offices, too. That will change when a central air unit is installed. A new air exchange system and stove will complete the kitchen; new classroom dividers will update the classrooms, and updated locker rooms, including a women’s locker room are all part of the project. Even the historical aspects, such as the display cases and a historical marker will be changed.

Outside, major changes include changing the grassy area in front of the building into a parking lot, fixing sidewalks, updating the handicap-accessible entry and pouring new concrete in the motor pool where the supply trucks sit.

“If there were a spill out there, it would not meet the regulations for OSHA,” Gansen said.

The entire project is not finalized, however. Gansen said the National Guard can alter its plans at any time, meaning some of the proposed changes may pan out differently.

When the project starts, no soldiers will be working in the building. Gansen is unsure if current staff will be working from a construction trailer or partnering with a nearby armory to temporarily perform its operations. The 224th will also need a plan for where it will perform drills.

The entire project could take nine months to a year. While architects have visited the building and an energy evaluation has been completed, Gansen has not received any estimates on future energy cost savings.

Regardless, Gansen said, “It will definitely be a major improvement and make it much more accessible to the public.”