Richland breaks ground on $18.5 million new city hall

The deal to close on 1.8 acres to build a new Richland City Hall was 15 years in the making.

“It took an act of Congress. Literally,” said Joe Schiessl, the city’s director of parks and public facilities.

The city sealed the deal with the federal government Aug. 25 and plans to start a two-year construction project this month to build a new $18.5 million city hall at 625 Swift Blvd.

The total cost includes all expenses, from sales tax and furniture, to land and architect fees.

The city plans to demolish the 59-year-old city hall on George Washington Way and sell the land for commercial development.

The “oversized parking lot” serving the Federal Building on Jadwin Avenue was too big to serve the building, so the city worked with the federal government and divvied it up with Columbia Basin College through a complicated, lengthy bureaucratic process.

“We had some obligation and one of those was to acquire and create a parking lot for an undeveloped piece of property next to the Federal Building. We built a 50-space lot to serve the Federal Building and Veterans Administration,” Schiessl said.

It’s been completed for a couple of months.

Work is underway now to renovate the large parking lot serving the Federal Building to increase capacity and safety for city hall and federal workers.

CBC’s Health Science Center students and staff will be able to use up to 50 parking spaces by using a window hanger pass system.

Now that the city’s cleared the parking lot hurdles, it can focus on the city hall construction project, which should be complete for staff to occupy by spring 2019.

The project won’t cost taxpayers anything additional, Schiessl said.

The money for the new building will come from selling councilmanic bonds, or non-voted debt, backed by general fund revenue. To pay down the 30-year debt, the city will use revenue from paying off the debt for the city shops near Vintner Square and existing electric utility taxes.

“What’s interesting and cool about this project is it’s more building than we normally could afford,” Schiessl said.

The three-story, 40,840-square-foot building will be constructed using design-build contracting. This means the city hires the builder and architect together, which saves money.

“It hasn’t been an option for public construction until pretty recently,” Schiessl said. “We expect to save 30 percent on the project cost.”

A 3,345-square-foot basement to house records is also part of the work.

Spokane-based Leone & Keeble is the general contractor. Architects are Architects West of Coeur d’Alene and Opsis Architecture of Portland.

Schiessl said the new building features “a beautiful floor plan and stunning architecture. It has a lobby atrium environment.”

“I think the community is really going to be proud of it,” he said.

The city council requested a building that “feels like it suits our past but has to look toward the future,” Schiessl said.

“When you see the architecture, it will be hard to argue it doesn’t fit on that site,” he said.

The building’s main entrance will face Swift Boulevard and a secondary entrance will face the parking lot to the south.

The building is expected to have a life cycle of 60 years and to look timeless.

The exterior will feature precast concrete panels, glass, steel and brick masonry “to stand the test of time,” Schiessl said. “The interior is beautiful but also modest and uses the same durable materials.”

The new facility will house just under 90 employees. It’ll move city staff from three buildings — city hall, the administration annex and the development services department — under one roof and out of aging buildings, creating a one-stop shop for residents and customers.

All of the energy services employees, except for permit center staff, will move to the city shops building. Human resources staff will move from the city shops into the new building.

The cost to improve or maintain the existing buildings outweigh the cost of a combined new facility, Schiessl said.

Schiessl said the new city hall building permit is under review.

A ground breaking at the site is planned for 10 a.m. Sept. 22.

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