The future of city hall: Renovate or relocate




City officials are considering whether to renovate City Hall—or to relocate City Hall to a portion of the former Memorial Boulevard School.

During a special joint workshop last Monday, the City Council, along with the Board of Finance and the Memorial Boulevard Building Committee, reviewed cost estimates of the two proposed options for the City Hall project.

Gilbane Building Company provided cost estimating services and worked with the city of Bristol to evaluate both options. Eagle Environmental provided cost estimates associated with required environmental abatement for each building.

“We looked at trying to get two facilities that served the same functional needs and that would have brought a 30-year life,” said Public Works Director Walt Veselka. “Both are going to be essentially the same from a functional standpoint.”

Located at 111 North Main St., City Hall would have an estimated cost of $20,039,170 if officials decide to move forward with a renovation to the existing building. This includes 15,603 square feet of “heavy renovation,” which Gilbane’s report defined as “a full reconfiguration of the existing architectural floor plan,” and the “replacement of above ceiling utilities within the space.” Upgrades include a new HVAC system, new exterior windows and doors, a patch/repair of the roof, new vinyl and carpet floors, new fire protection, a new electrical system, new plumbing and an upgrade to the existing four-stop elevator.

If city officials decide to move City Hall to a portion of the Memorial Boulevard School building, the estimated cost is $24,121,924. This includes 15,780 square feet of life-safety renovations in the building’s sub-basement level and 46,311 square feet of heavy renovation. Upgrades include a new electrical and fire protection system, an upgrade to the existing five-stop elevator, a patch/repair of the roof, new hollow metal doors, frames and hardware, new furniture, miscellaneous interior glass and a new HVAC system.  City departments would occupy four floors of the building.

Costs associated with the theater space at the Memorial Boulevard School were not included in Gilbane’s report, as the Memorial Boulevard Building Committee is currently addressing this project. As Gilbane serves as the construction manager for the theater project, Veselka said the city wanted to work with a trusted source for the City Hall project.

“We wanted a number that was generated to come from a trusted source,” said Veselka. “We’re working parallel to [the Memorial Boulevard Building Committee]. Our task was really to look at only the movement of City Hall there.”

The possibility of moving City Hall to the former school was a dates back five to six years ago after the Board of Education decided to close Memorial Boulevard.

One factor that sparked the discussion among officials this time around was the lead contamination that broke out in City Hall this past March.

“Back in 2011, that really started the discussions, and it’s kind of gone off and on since then,” said Veselka. “What drove it again were some of the issues we had in City Hall this past spring, and the fact that for the theater to be a viable entity, they need a tenant in the rest of the building.”

Veselka said the 2012 Space Needs Analysis prepared by DRA Architects served as a starting point for evaluating both City Hall project options. Veselka, along with an engineer and an architect then laid out office needs for both options before turning over that information to Gilbane.

“In order to make sure we’re doing the same in both facilities, we really looked at that, and looked at the functional aspects of City Hall in keeping certain offices together,” said Veselka.

Whether it undergoes a renovation or moves to the former Memorial Boulevard School, City Hall will have various departments relocated. While the first floor would remain the same, Assistant City Engineer Ray Rogozinski said the second floor would include the Fire Marshal’s office, the Building Department, and the Public Works Department’s land use, engineering and administrative staff.

Rogozinski said those changes also would include relocating the purchasing, personnel and claims departments to the third floor, and ultimately the park department off-site to Rockwell Park.

“As the result of that, if we were to stay here [on North Main Street], the majority of the space…here [on the grounds floor] would actually be vacant for other uses,” said Rogozinski.

In its report, Gilbane identified 10 cost drivers of both City Hall project options. Several factors driving the cost of upgrading Memorial Boulevard include a higher proportion of heavy renovations, site work and abatement.

Several factors driving the cost of upgrades at the existing City Hall building include the replacement of exterior windows, phased renovations to an occupied building and a requirement for swing space.

Since renovating City Hall would be phased out with one floor completed at a time, the city would have to rent swing space for staff.

“The cost of leasing that space plus moving people around is…what makes this renovation as high as it is,” said Veselka.

Veselka said the City Hall project is “just the beginning of more discussions.

“It’s a fair analysis of what needs to be done in City Hall to freshen the mechanical systems, which are now almost 60 years old,” said Veselka. “You could spread those [projects] out over a number of years, but in doing that, you’re actual cost is going to be more than the $20 million.”

To view the City Hall project’s entire conceptual cost estimate evaluation report, visit the city of Bristol’s website,