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Report: City Hall renovation feasible, budget friendly

In an analysis that will be considered either good news or no news — depending on how Ashland voters decide in May — it has been determined that the potential cost of renovating City Hall is “well within that initial estimate that the bond measure was based on.”

City Hall project manager Kaylea Kathol told Ashland City Council as much during its April 21 meeting, basing her comments on a report filed by ORW Architecture. ORW’s goal was to determine whether restoring City Hall could be achieved within budget limits as part of the $8.2 million general obligation bond. Measure 15-193 will be on the ballot May 19.

The Eugene-based architectural firm, with “input” from Ashland Historic Commission Chairman Dale Shostrom and an assist by historic preservationist Peter Meijer, determined that seismic rehabilitation and historic preservation with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification could be completed for an estimated cost of $7,425,000.

“So this is great news, this preliminary estimate,” Kathol said. “It demonstrates that we can hit the target established by the bond measure.”

The original budget for renovating City Hall was $7.2 million, with the renovation of Pioneer Hall and the Community Center together costing the additional $1 million. The extra $225,000 on top of the original City Hall estimate factors in a contingency fund, as ORW architect Dana Crawford explained after fielding a question by Councilor Rich Rosenthal.

“Well, for the design process, it’s a 15% contingency,” Crawford said during the meeting, held via Zoom. “So as the design goes from preliminary to very technical and detailed and determined, that contingency goes from 15% to 0%, and then it’s bid out. And so we are at the very early level of predesign, and as we move into schematic design that’ll lower to 10% and then into the technical drawings it’ll lower to 5%, and then zero. And that’s in part what creates that confidence that we can hit that $7.2 (million).”

Zeroing in on the contingency fund, Rosenthal asked whether 10% was the industry standard, to which Crawford explained that was true for new construction, while “for a renovation project, it’s generally slightly higher.”

Councilor Julie Akins pressed Public Works Director Paula Brown on potential cost overruns and whether that money would come out of other projects linked to the bond. Brown, sitting through her final council meeting before her resignation becomes official in a matter of days, said that’s not how it would work.

“I would say no,” she said, “and what we’ve discussed with the architectural team is, right now, we’re early enough in the process that we would be able to not do something within the building itself. So all of that $7.2 (million) that’s dedicated to City Hall would remain dedicated to City Hall. If there were significant cost overruns and we needed to come back to you, we would come back to you with that decision. We will stay within that 7.2.”

The council requested the evaluation during a business meeting March 3, with the goal to determine whether historic preservation was feasible technically and could be completed within budget. The city also wanted to know whether a LEED sustainability rating certification of silver or better could be reached within the budget, and details about a possible construction schedule and its potential impact on Plaza businesses.

The city paid ORW Architecture $51,488 to answer those questions. ORW’s “team” included a structural engineer from Ciota Engineering, a LEED specialist from Brightworks Sustainability, and Meijer.

ORW’s estimated cost includes design, permits and fees, temporary staff relocation, a solar photovoltaic system and construction costs. Also baked into the estimate is the cost of reaching at least a silver, and possibly gold, LEED rating.

As part of its study, the ORW design team toured City Hall and studied images from the early 1900s. City Hall, built in 1891 and located at 20 E. Main St., is an unreinforced brick building which has undergone several expansions and renovations before its north-facing wall began to fail and bulge out in early 2019, rendering it unsafe for public and private events. Roof, ceiling, wall and foundation repairs will cost at least $500,000, according to preliminary estimates cited in the city’s bond “explanatory statement.”

Though its plans are only preliminary, ORW’s report stated that the main entry of the building would likely be moved to the existing arched opening on the west side “to improve space organization and flexibility, and strengthen the connection to the Plaza.” Moving the entry, it added, provides universal access to a secure public lobby on both levels — a small suite to the north and large suite to the south.

While the proposed renovation would not produce the kind of space gain that would come with completely razing the building and starting over, the renovated City Hall would still have about 7,401 square feet of usable area — 841 feet more than it has now.

“So, primarily the added usable space is by taking over the mechanical well that’s currently on the east side of that second level,” Crawford said. “Even with inserting a new structural system, it looks like you have 15 percent more usable space than you have now, which is really positive.”

ORW estimated that the construction would take 16 to 18 months, including about seven to 10 months for the “most disruptive” activities with regard to noise, traffic and parking impacts.

“The impact of the construction will change over time,” Crawford said. “The first half of the construction will be the most disruptive in terms of noise and dust and things like that, and that’s mostly demolition and structural underpinning and new foundations and things like that. The second half of the construction is really focused more on interior activities, and it’s much quieter and much less disruptive.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

A bond measure is on the ballot May 19 to pay for renovations to Ashland City Hall. Tidings file photo