Downtown buildings demolished

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Workers demolish a building on West Washington Street Tuesday. The building and some of its neighbors were purchased by the city to make way for the new municipal center.

Demolition began Tuesday on city-owned properties lining West Washington Street to make way for the city’s new municipal center.

The demolitions represented the first visible step toward the new city hall, which is scheduled to be completed next year.

All four of the buildings held businesses until they were acquired by the city during January and February. The businesses have moved to other locations nearby.

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The demolitions were approved by the Historic Landmarks Commission about a month ago.

City officials say a new building is needed because of multiple structural deficiencies and mechanical problems in the old building. City Council decided to build a new city hall rather than attempt to repair the current one, which suffers from a sagging slab, cracks in the floors and walls, a corroded pipe system, a failing HVAC system and more.

One entrance to the building has been closed for about two years, because decorative elements in the walls surrounding the door are bearing weight they weren’t designed to hold, according to an engineer’s report.

Building a new structure, rather than renovating the old one, also would allow for more space so city departments now in leased buildings can move into city-owned property and create a “one-stop shop” for taxpayers, city leaders have said.

Preliminary plans are to have the building front on West Washington Street with the parking lot behind it. City leaders hope it will be an impetus for redevelopment throughout downtown.

The new building and its contents, including $11.2 million for a new E-911 radio system, are expected to cost about $37.5 million according to a 2010 estimate from the Waller, Todd & Sadler architectural firm.

The new radio system is required because of state mandates that all law enforcement systems be able to communicate with one another. In addition, Motorola has stopped producing replacement parts for the current system.