City building revamping up for vote

Planning stages will address sustainability and environmental concerns of the building.
Friday, December 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

The Daniel Boone City Building could soon see its first of many face lifts.

A public hearing is set for Monday’s Columbia City Council meeting to discuss the first of three phases of the $22 million renovation and expansion of city hall. This phase involves the renovation of the first floor of the building and the demolition of the Gates/Rader Building and the Finance Annex at the northwest corner of Eighth Street and Broadway. The cost estimate for the first phase is $869,603.

“We’re going to do an environmental assessment on the buildings before they are demolished,” Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said, “so that we can make sure that we aren’t dumping any hazardous material, like asbestos, during the process.”

The assessment should be done by the end of January, at which point demolition will begin on the Gates/Rader Building. St. Romaine said the Buzz Barbershop, which still operates in that building, will move to a new location at the beginning of January. The Offices of Cultural Affairs and Volunteer Services, which were also in that building, recently made a permanent move to the Gentry Building at Broadway and Seventh Street.

The city will also do an environmental assessment for the first floor of city hall.

The City Council almost certainly will approve the staff’s request to move ahead after Monday’s public hearing. It unanimously approved the overall city hall renovation in August, despite some strong public sentiment that the project be put to a public vote.

If approval comes Monday, the city will seek bids in January and begin renovation in February, which will take four to six months. That would allow offices to move in around mid-2007; demolition of the annex would then begin.

The first floor of the Boone Building will become the permanent location of the Utilities Customer Services and Treasury Management divisions of the Finance Department.

The first-floor renovation will happen in two phases, Finance Director Lori Fleming said. The finance offices already on the first floor will move to their permanent location across the hall, which is now empty office space that needs remodeling. Once this remodeled area is complete, the finance offices and the reception desk will move, and the rest of the first-floor work will continue.

The back of the Boone Building will have two drive-through payment lanes and a cashier window for walk-up utility customers. Plans call for the drive-through lanes to use an underground bank-style pneumatic tube system.

“We didn’t want to use an overhead system because then we’d have to build a canopy,” St. Romaine said, “and they tend to get hit by large trucks.”

Inside, glass windows and doors will separate the two finance offices, and customers will be able to carry out business there.

The renovations will not compromise the $900,000 worth of work done in the lobby of city hall in 1997. That included restoration of the historic ceiling, the addition of a new mezzanine stairway, improved air conditioning and efforts to bring the building into compliance with the city fire code.

“What’s already been done will not change,” St. Romaine said. “We don’t want to leave any money wasted. We will work around it.”

In November 1995, the public rejected a proposed $6.3 million renovation of the Boone Building, which would have included an addition to the north side and a ground-level council chambers. The new plans still call for a first-floor chambers in the new addition; one idea is to avoid fixed seating so the chambers can be reconfigured and operate as a multipurpose room.

So far there are no new conceptual designs reflecting what city hall might look like when the entire renovation and expansion is done. Chiodini Associates, the architectural firm charged with the design, has been focused on plans for this first-floor phase, taking into account space allocation for offices and personnel.

“I imagine all of 2007 will be dedicated to design,” St. Romaine said. “We’ve asked Chiodini to give us an analysis of unused space once the design is complete. We want to ensure that this new building will serve our needs for the next 20 years.”

Part of the reason design is such a huge endeavor is that the city wants to make the building LEED-certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is a method to construct environmentally friendly and sustainable buildings, which are rated on three levels: silver, gold and platinum.

“We want to at least be at the silver level,” St. Romaine said.

One of the features being considered is called “Daylight and Views,” a design that allows plenty of daylight into the building and gives people frequent views of the outside. St. Romaine said that would mean an open-space plan and fewer private offices, which might move toward the interior of the building.

One percent of the renovation budget, or about $200,000, will be dedicated to public art inside and outside the building. The Office of Cultural Services will seek bids from artists, whose proposals will be reviewed by the City Council. St. Romaine hopes that process will begin this month.

“We want to get an artist involved right now with Chiodini in the design process,” St. Romaine said. “We want both to work in harmony.”

Another reason for the lengthy design process is that the city wants to ensure that interrelated offices and departments will be located in one area, rather than spread across the city, to provide easier and better access for customers and city employees.

St. Romaine said the city wants to create a “one-stop shop” for efficiency, so that, for instance, developers could go to one place to do all their necessary paperwork, rather than “running around” the entire building.

“The biggest improvement we will have is when we get our office out of the Bank of America building,” Fleming said. “My offices are in separate areas, and it sometimes makes it difficult to get everywhere.”

Other offices will change location as well.

During the renovation, the Information Technology Programming Services office, now in the basement of the annex, will move to the Williams-Keepers Building on Ash Street that the city recently leased. Once complete, it will return to the Boone Building and rejoin with the help desk, Network Services and Information Technology Administration Offices.

The Water and Light Department’s administration and engineering offices, located on the upper level of the police building and the upper level of a building at Fourth and Walnut streets, respectively, will consolidate in the Williams-Keepers Building as well. This will also allow the Police Department’s detectives unit to move back to the upper level of the police building. This transition should be complete by July 2007.

The Williams-Keepers Building is on a three-year, short-term lease ending in 2010, in time for the offices to move to their permanent location in the Boone Building.

“So much of what we do affects every department, from time sheets to check requests,” Fleming said. “This project will ensure that paper flows better and we communicate better. This will be worth it in the long run.”

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