Ground broken for new city hallPublished 11:38pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Calling the project a catalyst for the re-growth of the surrounding area, City Council members broke ground Wednesday on the new municipal center project on West Washington Street.
Officials hope the public investment in the planned 115,000-square-foot, two-story building will spark innovation among the private sector in the downtown corridor.
“It’s the core of the apple, and we want to keep it healthy, and we want to make it thrive,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said before the officials dug in and turned the dirt.
The project will cost roughly $37 million including the cost of a new E911 call center and should be complete in about 20 months, Capital Programs and Buildings Director Gerry Jones said.
The new City Hall will replace the old one nearby, which is nearly 50 years old and has multiple structural deficiencies, Jones has said. One main public entrance has been closed for three years at the recommendation of consultants.
The old building will remain in place as the new one is being constructed. Once city employees and equipment are moved into the new building — in the summer of 2014, Jones hopes — the old one will be demolished and a parking area will take its place.
The new building will be safer for employees and the public, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said.
“It is designed to provide a safe and functional environment for all who walk through her doors to either give or receive services,” Cuffee-Glenn said.
The new building will front on West Washington Street at its intersection with Henley Place and Wellons Street. However, most people will enter the building through the rear, because that is where the parking is located, Jones said.
Officials foresee new life breathed into the surrounding business district thanks to the building.
“I see this as just another step toward the complete revitalization of the downtown corridor,” Councilman Charles Parr said during the ceremony.
Floor plans were on display at a reception after the groundbreaking. The first floor would include City Council chambers as well as a “one-stop shop” area for those hoping to get building permits and other services. It also will host offices, like that of the city treasurer, where citizens need to conduct business frequently.
Departments visited less often by ordinary citizens, such as Budget and Strategic Planning, would be on the second floor. This strategy will help make the building more convenient for the public, Jones said.