City Hall Design Combines History, Modern Interior in Fitchburg
By Mina Corpuz
FITCHBURG -- Designs for a new City Hall would combine the building’s historic character with a modern interior to provide community space and house municipal offices.
Icon Architecture, the designer selected for the project, presented renderings to the City Council Tuesday. Office and meeting space would return to 718 Main St. and the council chambers would be housed in a separate building.
“The focus is to have all the energy on Main Street so all the public access and movement is helping invigorate Main Street,” said Ned Collier, a principal for Icon working on the project.
The front half of the building closest to Main Street would be geared for public access.
Offices that often receive foot traffic, like the clerk and treasurer’s offices, would be among the first people seen upon walking into City Hall.
Other departments would be on the middle floors, including the mayor’s office on the third. The top floor would be for maintenance equipment and the basement would be for archives and storage.
The building could also be reconfigured by moving elevators at the front of the building and rethinking walking paths on the different floors, Collier said.
He said the biggest change is expected for the third floor, which currently accommodates a dropped ceiling.
An “imaginative re-creation” of the building through design also includes preserving historical aspects of City Hall, like its long windows, the front steps, and a remnants of an auditorium on the second floor, Collier said.
“I love the design,” said At-large Councilor Anthony Zarrella, who asked about what kind of aesthetic City Hall will take on. “I’m a sucker for historic design.”
The former Bank of America building at 700 Main St. will be remade into the City Council chamber.
Collier said the goal is to have a space that can be flexible for meetings and events.
The building would have screens to display information during meetings and be wired for recording capabilities.
Ward 1 Councilor Amy Green wanted to ensure the chamber would be designed so that members can hear each other during meetings, which can be a challenge now.
The $23.5 million project for City Hall and the council chamber is expected to be complete by Fall 2020, said Tony DiLuzio of Colliers International, who is representing the city as the owner’s project manager.
Municipal offices and meetings relocated to Boulder Drive and other locations after a beam at City Hall cracked in 2012.
It has been nearly two years since the city carried out a feasibility study about what to do with the historic building.
DiLuzio said the design of the building has changed since the study to save time and money.
Collier added that Icon’s design builds off of ideas and needs identified in the feasibility study.
The council also unanimously approved two memorandum of understanding between the city and Fitchburg State related to the City Hall renovation project.
The first is for a parking structure that would be located across the street near the Theater Block to be used for City Hall and the city. FSU will build it and the city will later determine a long term lease to use it.
The designer, Icon, suggested a joint parking garage with the university to address difficulties with parking for City Hall, said Mayor Chief of Staff AJ Tourigny.
The second is to conduct a joint parking study to determine how the parking structure should be. It will look at existing spots, demand, and offer suggestions to meet parking needs.
The total cost of the study is $50,000, which the city and FSU will split, Tournigy said. That money has already been budgeted.
A new parking structure would be done in the Fall of 2022.
Councilor At-large Sam Squailia asked where will people park in the meantime while the structure is being built.
Tourigny said there will be about 20 spots behind City Hall for constituents and visitors and employees can park in the surrounding area on the street.
City Council President and Ward 4 Councilor Michael Kushmerek said the Putnam Street structure is still available and is underused.
Tourigny noted that the designer, project manager, and contractor all have experience working in the city.
Icon is the designer for the former B.F. Brown School that will become the Fitchburg Arts Community and the Theater Block. Colliers International is also the owner’s project manager for Crocker Elementary School and the library.
Contractor Bond International has worked on projects in the city, including on buildings for Fitchburg State.
Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz