The city of Richland is moving to secure 1.8 acres in the parking lot of the Federal Courthouse for its new city hall.
The council authorized City Manager Cindy Reents this week to offer the U.S. General Services Administration $677,000 for the property at 625 Swift Ave. The deal includes a separate land swap that would reduce the city’s land cost to $392,000.
Richland wants to retire its aging city hall and consolidate administrative operations now housed in three separate buildings. All three are failing after nearly 60 years of operation.
While it negotiates final terms with the federal government, Richland is moving ahead to find a contractor to design and build the three-story, 40,000-square-foot building.
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40,000 square feet
$17.8 million cost
Joe Schiessl, parks and public facilities director, said the city will advertise for interested partners to submit qualifications on Monday. Advertisements will appear in the Tri-City Herald, Seattle business media and websites that post municipal construction projects. The top three to five firms will be invited to submit formal proposals.
Schiessl said the design-build approach guarantees a maximum cost and allows partners to specify their fees. The result is no cost overruns.
The new city hall will have sustainable elements, though no formal designation. Schiessl said it will boast energy efficiency and other green measures but no certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings program. LEED certification is common for public buildings but adds cost and complexity to construction projects.
“We like to design buildings that have LEED-style components but don’t seek certification,” he said.
The city hall project requires no new taxes or public vote.
The Swift Boulevard site will make the city an intimate neighbor to the Richland Federal Building and place it in the heart of the Swift Corridor development. The corridor includes Kadlec Regional Medical Center’s $100-plus million patient tower and parking structure, as well as restaurants, offices, sports fields, parking, the Richland Public Library and improved access to the Columbia River.
Schiessl said it’s too costly to modernize the existing Richland City Hall, which debuted the year Richland incorporated, 1958, as it emerged from its roots as a federally-controlled zone. All three administrative buildings have outlived their usefulness. All pose significant maintenance issues that affect day-to-day business operations that would cost millions to address.
In a recent example, workers and visitors evacuated city hall in January when a burning smell filled the building. It was later traced to failing equipment in the heating system.
They returned a short time later after the fire department inspected the building. The city closed the building a short time later when a failed part in the heating system caused temperatures to drop into the low 50s. The closure affected its finance, customer service and communications/marketing staff.
Schiessl said the culprit is a byzantine network of manual controls in the basement. Replacing it would cost close to $950,000. Bringing city hall up to Americans With Disabilities Act standards would require an elevator and the entire complex needs a new roof.
Schiessl said the administrative services building is typical of the challenge of dealing with failing systems. Its sewer lines are embedded in its poured concrete walls. The galvanized pipes are dissolving, causing sewage to leak into gaps in the concrete.
“We can’t get access to it,” Schiessl said.
Functional issues are one issue. Image is another. Richland says a new city hall will give it a modern face and and help shed its “government-owned, war-oriented” image.
We like to design buildings that have LEED-style components but don’t seek certification.
Joe Schiessl, Richland parks and public facilities director
The city estimates a new city hall will cost $17.8 million, with construction starting as early as 2017. Schiessl hopes to move the city’s 90 workers to the new city hall by late 2018, or early 2019 at the latest.
The city will issue bonds to pay for construction and intends to repay them from taxes paid by customers of Richland’s municipal power utilities. It will use funds currently used to repay debt on the city shops when they are repaid. The city hall project requires no new taxes or public vote.
The current Richland City hall occupies a 1.5 acres at 505 Swift Blvd., fronting George Washington Way. It would be sold for private development. Proceeds could support city projects such as redevelopment of its downtown waterfront.
Schiessl said there’s been no feedback indicating whether the current city hall holds any architectural or historic significance.
Linda Newcomb, a Walla Walla architect and incoming president of the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said she’s not familiar with the building. But she said it’s common to discard buildings that have started to fail at the 60-year mark. They’re too old to be modern and too modern to be historic.
“It may be too early for people to appreciate it,” she said.