39 years later, OB2 may get real name

Capitol panel mulls new name for building housing DSHS workers

bshannon@theolympian.comMay 20, 2014 

OB2 — Office Building 2 — on the Capitol Campus might finally receive a name that identifies what exactly is going on in the building.


Figuring out what goes on inside the various buildings on the state Capitol Campus is usually pretty easy.

The Temple of Justice has the Washington Supreme Court.

The Legislative Building is where lawmakers make laws.

The Transportation Building houses the state Department of Transportation.

So what’s up with OB2 – as in, Office Building 2?

Suggestive of a place where nameless, faceless bureaucrats do mysterious things with paper documents, OB2 is home to Washington government’s largest single agency: the Department of Social and Health Services.

DSHS Secretary Kevin Quigley says it’s time to change the name of the building to reflect the agency’s role in providing support, shelter, care and protection to 2.2 million of the state’s more than 6.8 million people.

“The Department … would like our headquarters facility to be more recognizable and named more in line with the services we provide,” Quigley said in a February letter to the Department of Enterprise Services, which is overseeing the name change. “We are proposing that OB2 be renamed the Human Services Building.’’

The first step toward moving the name-change proposal to the Legislature comes Thursday morning. The Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, which evaluates campus building projects and naming, is scheduled to hear the idea.

OB2 appears to be a relic from 1970s planning. Jim Erskine, spokesman for Enterprise Services, said a comprehensive planning study for the Capitol Campus from April 1970 mentions three potential new buildings on the east side of Capitol Way. They were named sequentially as Office Buildings 1, 2 and 3.

Erskine said their placement on maps indicates that OB1 became Transportation and OB3 became the modern Natural Resources Building that was completed in the early 1990s.

Daniel Evans, the former three-term governor who was in office when the structure was built in 1975, said Monday there was no great political story behind the OB2 name. “As I remember, there was never any talk of what to name it,” Evans said.

Erskine said the law allows name changes to occur when structures are built or after a substantial renovation. OB2 saw four of five planned phases of renovation occur during 2002-07.

State workers interviewed Monday at OB2 didn’t have strong feelings about its name, but one offered that the renaming should give a nod to history. Pat Luhr, who works as an IT tech for DSHS, suggested naming it for Evans. There is precedent for that — several legislative buildings have been renamed for lawmakers and lieutenant governors, for instance.

The path to renaming OB2 includes a review by the State Capitol Committee, a four-member panel chaired by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and includes voting representatives of the governor, lands commissioner and secretary of state. From there it goes to lawmakers, who get the last word.

“It really is kind of a ridiculous name,” said Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, who serves on the advisory panel that is reviewing the name change Thursday. “Human Services Building is much better.”

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com @bradshannon2

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