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Phoenix to start work new civic center

PHOENIX — The city will break ground on a new civic center building, the centerpiece of a downtown revitalization effort, after officials agreed on a financing package in time to meet a Sept. 25 deadline on a contact for construction.

Groundbreaking is scheduled at noon Thursday, Oct. 5, at 220 N. Main Street.

Under the arrangement, the city will borrow $1.5 million to give to the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency with repayment provisions. The agency had been attempting to get a loan from Umpqua Bank for the project.

“There were some conditions that needed to be satisfied (for the loan). I don’t believe there would be the same concerns (with the city),” said Mayor Chris Luz. “I really stressed that we needed to build the center, to do it right.”

Tax revenues that the urban renewal agency receives will be more than adequate to repay the city, said Luz. Loan negotiations are taking place and may include payment of just the interest in the first few years, he said.

Adroit Construction was selected as project contractor through a request for proposals competition. Adroit’s proposal was good through Sept. 25. Construction is expected to take about nine months, and the firm will move fencing, an office trailer and equipment onto the site beginning Monday.

The total project cost is budgeted at $2.8 million. The building will be 6,500 square feet and include space for events. An adjacent plaza will be constructed. There will be a City Council chambers, and the Chamber of Commerce may have an office there, said Luz.

PHURA's Interim Executive Director Dave Kanner and city Public Works Director Ray DiPasquale previously said the project’s 2 percent contingency was on the low side. But the fact that bids received for the construction were close to each other is an indication that Adroit had a pretty accurate number for the project, said Kanner.

“We may not have to dig into the contingency,” said Kanner.

A community center has been viewed as a key piece of urban renewal efforts to revitalize the downtown on 31 acres bordered by Main Street, Bear Creek Drive, First and Fourth streets. But commercial lots owned by the agency inside the area aren’t selling. Officials hope the center will trigger sales.

PHURA and the city are also in discussion about dissolving the current board of directors, with the City Council becoming the agency board, possibly as early as November. City Manager Eric Swanson would take over as agency executive director from Kanner, who works part time.

“All of our citizen representatives (on the PHURA board) have agreed we need to move on,” said Al Muelhoefer, board chairman. “It’s best for the city to take over. They inherit the building once it's done.”

First proposed in 2015, the structure has been referred to as the plaza building, but civic center has been suggested as a more accurate description.

“The people that I bounced it off of generally believe it’s a better name in terms of reflecting what the building is going to be used for,” said Muelhoefer.  

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him attboomwriter@gmail.com.