The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Posts Tagged ‘Public Participation Process for Community Facilities’

June 23, Aug. 18 and Oct. 6 are three dates for open houses on flood-damaged city buildings: Should city government return to May’s Island among the great questions

In City Hall, Floods on June 3, 2009 at 4:12 pm

City officials report that they will hold three public open houses over a three-and-half-month period to get the public’s input on what the city should do with its key flood-damaged buildings.

The open houses will be held June 23, Aug. 18 and Oct. 6.

The dates were noted Wednesday during an hour-long discussion between city officials and The Gazette’s editorial board.

In the session, Mayor Kay Halloran and Brian Fagan, council member and mayor pro tem, insisted that the council and city officials have no “preconceived” notion of what the future holds for the city’s public buildings going into the public input process.

At the same time, the city will use a facilities framework, which the council approved earlier this year.
The framework makes a case for the city to consider organizing many of its services into a Community Services Center and a Community Operations Center. The framework also calls for the city to consider opening or building a Public Safety Training Center.

Halloran and Fagan said a Community Services Center – which will be a version of a City Hall — and Community Operations Center – which will be a version of a Public Works Building — do not need to be new buildings. They may be existing buildings, they said.

In response to several questions about the flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island, which has housed City Hall since the 1920s, neither the mayor and Fagan nor City Manager Jim Prosser and four other city officials at the meeting expressed any sentiment for returning city government to the building. It wasn’t as if they opposed the idea. But no one used the time to promote the idea.

In response to one question, Prosser repeated what he has said in the past: the Veterans Memorial Building, like the flood-damaged Paramount Theatre, has historic standing and must be renovated even if the cost of flood insurance for the buildings could be sizable. Prosser said the city is planning to meet with the state insurance commissioner, who has the power to waive flood insurance requirements on the public buildings.

The city officials spent some time, too, talking about the word sustainability when asked if it is possible to make an existing building as “sustainable” as a new building.

In part, the city’s talk about sustainability centers on the cost to operate a building – heating and cooling it, for instance – over the 50 or 100 years that the building will stand.

Fagan also pointed to what he said was a social component of sustainability, which he seems to tie to a building’s usability by the public. This raises the question, can a seven-story or eight-story building be as socially sustainable as a two-story one. The city’s temporary City Hall is in a two-story building in a northeast Cedar Rapids office park.

Pat Ball, the city’s utilities director, also pointed to the location of a building and the amount of fuel it might take for people to get to it.

Dan Thies, president of OPN Architects Inc., attended the Wednesday session. OPN has been hired by the city, at a cost of $400,000, to conduct the public participation process on facilities.

Thies said he has staff members at his firm “salivating” over the idea of getting into the Veterans Memorial Building and seeing how it might be reconfigured to function in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Fagan had noted that it’s not easy to get from the First Avenue side of the building to the Second Avenue side of it.

Among other flood-damaged buildings to be reviewed in the public participation process are the downtown library, the existing federal courthouse and a proposed new community center/recreation center.

The library has sustained more than 50 percent damage, a level of damage that will require the building to be razed and rebuilt in place or elsewhere. The library board wants to build it at another downtown site.

Prosser and the mayor said that the plan remains for the city to take over ownership of the existing, flood-damaged federal courthouse, which the federal government is repairing.

The building also has historic standing, and the plan is for the city’s proposed flood-protection system to protect the building, Prosser and the mayor said.

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City hires OPN Architects for $400,000 to help with open houses to determine future of flood-damaged city buildings; county, schools dropped out of process

In City Hall, Floods on May 26, 2009 at 5:57 pm

The much-anticipated series of public open houses will start June 23 to help the city determine the future of flood-damaged city buildings.
And Wednesday evening, the City Council hired OPN Architects Inc. of Cedar Rapids for $400,000 to help lead the several-month process.

OPN not only will help conduct the public open houses, but the firm also will provide design and planning options and an analysis of the costs involved in renovating buildings or building new ones.

OPN’s contract runs from May 28 through Oct. 31 and may be renewed in 60-day increments.

Among the key flood-damaged buildings under discussion will be the library, the Paramount Theatre, the Ground Transportation Center bus depot, the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, the Public Works Building and the existing federal courthouse, which the city is scheduled to assume ownership of once the new federal courthouse opens in the fall of 2012.

Sufficient damage was done to the library that it will be rebuilt not renovated, and the city’s library board already has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to allow the city to rebuild the library on a different site.

The council also will be interested in hearing about proposals to build a new City Hall, called a community services center, a new Public Safety Training Center and a new community operations center, which would house city departments like fleet maintenance, streets and solid waste.

Only city government is left to participate in the lengthy process to get public input on facilities.

Some months ago, both Linn County government and the Cedar Rapids school district were involved in the facilities process when the idea was that the differing jurisdictions might “co-locate” in a shared facility.
The county dropped out a few months ago, saying they wanted to move faster than the city. The school district dropped out this month.