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

The project developer that will put two new office buildings at the former site of the state Department of Transportation maintenance facility had originally proposed white cement wall panels.

Board members clearly favored the granite-and-flint option, which member Alison Nichols 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 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 developer FD Stonewater, said the firm had already spent extra money on unanticipated costs, including about $80,000 for traffic mitigation and additional landscaping, so the firm was reluctant to pay for 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 it.

In August, the Planning Board approved the controversial proposal to build two new office buildings on the condition that the developer come back with some alternate exterior designs and colors they hoped would improve the appearance of the larger building.

Michael Schwartz, of HGA Architects and Engineers, said architects used the nearby State House and Burton M. Cross state office buildings as inspiration. He also said the granite and flint option “is definitely 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 aesthetics weren’t up to the standards warranted for such a highly visible location, and because of concerns about traffic it could bring to surrounding streets. FD Stonewater added a small park with a short walking path, benches, trees and grass to the property in a spot that was originally earmarked for parking spaces.

The proposal calls for one three-story, 104,000-square-foot building that would be leased to the state for offices, and a 26,000-square-foot building that would be leased to the Maine Public Employees Retirement System along with a parking lot.

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

Former MDOT buildings on the upper part of the site, where the Maine retirement system building will be built, already have been demolished. Representatives of the developer said the new retirement system building would be built first, so workers can move to the new building and the existing building can be torn down to clear space for the other 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, scheduled for 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.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj