City Hall holds grand reopening Tuesday

Feb. 16, 2019 — Florence City Hall has re-opened at 250 Highway 101, and the redesigned building is now serving residents and city staff in a building remodeled specifically to maximize the space available at the location of the previous City Hall, with major upgrades for all departments.

“We are excited to move back into City Hall, where we can now provide more efficient and effective customer service to our community members, as well as see improved workflow for our staff,” said City of Florence City Project Manager Megan Messmer.

Messmer invited area residents to stop in to the official grand reopening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, which is this Tuesday, Feb. 19, from 5 to 7 p.m. “We invite the public to come see what we have been up to and tour the new space,” she said.

The renovated facility is now 11,500 square feet, after an expansion of 2,400 square feet. The new city council chamber has undergone the most visible changes, adding new seating for councilors, additional windows for natural light, and a color palette made of neutral beige and brown mixes.

The upgraded facility cost nearly $3 million and has been modified to make the best use of the previous space in the City Hall building. The decision to retain the skeleton of the previous building was made after a study was conducted to determine the future needs of the city and the cost expected with that replacement. It was decided by the Florence City Council after the completion of that analysis that the cost to completely replace the building was unwarranted.

There were discussions about spending less money on the upgrade during the Dec. 18, 2017, City Council meeting, prompted by Councilor Ron Preisler

“I was looking at project costs that went up from $1.9 to $2.8 million. That’s a very significant increase,” Preisler said.

During that 2017 meeting, which ultimately approved the current City Hall redesign, then-Councilor Susy Lacer and current Councilor Joshua Greene mentioned the future needs of the community, and ever-escalating construction costs as reasons to approve the additional funding required to implement the staff-approved design.

“My personal opinion would be to move forward with it, and we will have a beautiful City Hall we can all be very proud of,” Lacer said.

The redesigned structure has a single entryway, which includes a seating area for waiting customers and also allows for some control of the flow of individuals to the offices of city staff.

Importantly, the new building now meets all accessibility requirements and is fully ADA compliant. In addition, it also meets all state seismic safety standards.

The internal elements of the structure are important, but staff felt there was also a need to have an inviting and welcoming atmosphere in the interior spaces of the building.

To that end there are large, polished, wooden tables for speakers in the smaller meeting rooms, which are situated adjacent to the main chamber, surrounded by frosted glass. These work spaces are also multi-media ready, allowing for smaller groups to meet and share information in way previously unavailable. There are plenty of modern, black chairs for the public to use when attending city functions and there is plenty of storage for city staff.

Back in the new council chambers, the new floor design makes the space feel larger and more open, and there are video screens placed where the public can easily see what is transpiring in the main chamber.

The sound system is also significantly improved in terms of the placement and quality of the speakers. Behind the scenes there is a new, dedicated multi-media production room, with an updated array of electronics and additional video capacity for recording and broadcasting events at the facility.

On the lower floor of the building, there are rear entrances for tech staff and the area houses an IT work space for projects at all of the buildings under the supervision of the city.

The Planning and Development Department has been similarly updated and now has more space for the viewing of blueprints and other building-related documents. The redesign also includes more offices and support areas for administrative staff and work spaces to house the office equipment needed to run City Hall.

The first city council meeting in the new facility will take place on Monday, March 4.

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