New city hall nears completion
Published 10:16 pm Wednesday, July 16, 2014
By Henry Luzzatto
Nearly 18 months after ground was broken, a project to replace the 52-year-old current city hall continues right on track, according to city officials.
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The first phase of the project, which involves construction and street improvements, should be completed by Aug. 28, according to Gerry L. Jones, director of capital programs and buildings for the city. Jones said employees would begin to move into the new municipal center during the first week of September, with the building being fully operational and open to the public by the end of that month.
Now that the building has taken shape, the majority of the construction is dealing with the outside facade and upgrading utilities, he said. In fact, the current closure of a portion of West Washington Street is due to the upgrade of the water line, which needs valves replaced.
Despite weather concerns since the beginning of construction, the project has remained remarkably on schedule, Jones said.
“The key is having a very cooperative contractor,” he said, citing contractor Armada Hoffler’s ability to “rework the order of sequences” to keep the project on schedule, regardless of weather conditions.
By moving ahead with different aspects of construction when weather made others impossible, the project managed to stay on schedule and on budget, Jones said.
The current city hall has had multiple problems that make an upgrade necessary.
“The existing building has physical and structural issues, along with it being too small,” Jones said. A lack of adequate space resulted in the city having to lease space for offices, which spread the base of operations and made it more difficult for citizens to conduct business with multiple city departments.
Additionally, the equipment was in need of an upgrade, especially the 911 call center. The current call center uses analog technology, which is getting old and is difficult to repair. The new building will feature updated digital equipment.
The new municipal center aims to be “one building, one facility to take care of all your needs,” said Jones. The approach should also save the city money it currently spends on leases, he added.
Once employees have moved into the new building, the current city hall will be demolished, and a new parking lot will be built in its place.
Jones said street closures related to the project will soon come to an end. The water-line work is scheduled to end this week, and there is only one other scheduled closing of West Washington Street, immediately before construction is finished, when the road will be repaved.
Construction of a new municipal center is just one step towards the revitalization of downtown Suffolk, Jones said. City officials believe the central location will attract more traffic to the area, which could help drive new customers to local businesses.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to “promote private investment with needed public investment.”