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New Richland City Hall opens doors

The numbers aren’t all that far apart — from 505 Swift Blvd. to 625 Swift.

And the physical move into Richland’s new City Hall from the old building amounts to several hundred feet across Jadwin Avenue.

But after $18.4 million and 20 months of construction — plus some 14 years of planning and negotiations before the first shovel broke ground — the move into the new City Hall will be the culmination of an almost Herculean effort when it opens to the public May 28.

“It’s so rewarding on behalf of the community to see the final product,” said Joe Schiessl, Richland’s director of parks and public facilities. “I think everybody will be really pleased when they see it.”

People should use the old City Hall through May 24.

The nuts and bolts of the new building are straightforward: It’s 44,000 square feet with three stories above ground and a partial basement for storage, built on 1.8 acres purchased from the federal government in the oversized parking lot that serves the Federal Building.

Ground was broken in September 2017, and Schiessl said there were no major hiccups from there.

The money for the project came 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.

The contractor on the project was Leone & Keeble of Spokane. Architects West of Coeur d’Alene drew up the plans with assistance from Opsis Architecture of Portland.

“The new building is beautiful,” said City Manager Cindy Reents in an email. “It was important to us to bring over design elements from the original City Hall as a way to honor our city’s past. I think this was achieved, and our new City Hall is something our community can be proud of.”

The new building consolidates three buildings into one: the old City Hall and the city manager annex building, plus the nearby building at 840 Northgate Drive that houses the city’s engineering and planning departments.

“This was one of the main project objectives — making services more efficient and easier for the public by putting all services in one building,” Schiessl said.

He said the new building also has some interesting features. Chief among them is a glass wall in the council chamber that opens to the lobby.

“During those times when we have a large gathering for city council meetings, we can open up those doors to accommodate more people and make sure they feel like part of the meeting,” he said.

Reents said many of the conference rooms are named after local areas and landmarks, such as the Parkway, Uptown, White Bluffs, Badger Mountain, Hanford and Columbia River rooms.

The city is working on a water feature in front of the building featuring a 1940s valve that diverted drinking water from the Columbia River.

“We had it in one of the storage yards,” Schiessl said. “We took a sandblaster to it to clean it up, and we’re going to turn it into public art.”

The building that has served as Richland City Hall for six decades will be demolished, then sold or leased for development. The demo should happen in mid-June.

“Although it will be sad to see the existing City Hall go, it will be very exciting to see the opportunity for economic development in this key area of our city,” Reents said. “I’m looking forward to seeing our downtown transform over the coming years as city council has envisioned.”

Simultaneous to the City Hall project has been work on the Swift Boulevard corridor. Crews are working on the street, widening the sidewalks and improving the stormwater system. The work is expected to wrap up in early fall.

The move into the new building will happen in three stages, the first of which already is complete. The third floor of the new building houses the city manager, city attorney, clerical staff and administrative services, and the human resources and finance departments.

The second floor move is May 18, including the public works department and development services. The final stage on May 25 will fill the first floor, including all customer services, as well as marketing and communications.

The doors open to the public the first Tuesday after Memorial Day. A grand opening ceremony is planned for June 10 and will include tours, an official ceremony and flag raising.

The first city council meeting in the new building is June 4.

“It’s a big day for us,” Schiessl said. “The current City Hall is 60 years old, and we won’t get another City Hall for at least 70 years.

“This building was built to last.”

Along with construction workers and architects, the project required the effort of the area’s congressional representatives, as well as lobbyists, to get Congress to OK the sale of the land.

Part of the deal was the city purchasing a half-acre lot next to the Federal Building to create 50 parking spaces for federal services. That happened before groundbreaking for the new building.

The city will have additional parking in the oversized lot. In return, it will manage that entire lot — snow removal and making sure people aren’t parked there too long being the primary responsibilities.

“There have been stops and starts,” Schiessl said, referring to when the planning for a new building started in 2003. “It took a literal act of Congress for us to acquire the land.

“I’d say that’s fairly unusual for land acquisition.”

Which isn’t to say that the city and federal governments were at loggerheads over the deal. There was just a lot of red tape to work through.

“A lot of times in government, different organizations are watching out for their own interest,” Schiessl said. “In this case, we’ve been working with the federal government since 2003 on this.

“We’ve had a similar vision for a lot of years.”

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