City of Amarillo revisits City Hall location conversation during Tuesday’s City Council meeting

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In a robust discussion that lasted over several hours, the Amarillo City Council revisited the conversation surrounding the potential future of the Amarillo City Hall during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. 

This comes after numerous conversations over several months with the council after the current location of City Hall, located at 601 S. Buchanan, has shown wear and tear with various issues, including issues with boilers and plumbing, the facility’s elevators as well as overall concrete deterioration. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, officials from Sims + Architects made a presentation to the council, highlighting the potential cost of three options for City Hall, all of which have been presented to the council in the past. This includes:

  • Renovating its current location, which has been there since 1966; 
  • Renovating the Amarillo Hardware building, a facility owned by the city of Amarillo, for City Hall; 
  • Building new construction of a City Hall facility in downtown Amarillo. 

City officials previously made the effort to move forward with the move of the Amarillo City Hall location to the Amarillo Hardware building. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, city officials intended to issue certificates of obligation (CO’s) for the $35 million move to the Amarillo Hardware building in August. 

However, that intent to issue those certificates of obligation was halted in August after Craig Gualtiere, the owner of Roasters Coffee & Tea, filed a lawsuit, claiming that using the CO’s in that way was illegal. 

Tuesday’s conversation served as a follow-up on questions council members had surrounding the future of the City Hall project that was proposed to city officials during the last conversation surrounding the topic. 

In her presentation, Sheila Sims, the president and architect for Sims + Architects, gave current potential construction costs on how each of the three scenarios for the future of City Hall would impact the city financially. Sims said she based this data on current projects from local contractors both on new construction and ongoing renovation projects for various entities throughout the city. 

Based on data from local contractors on current projects within the city of Amarillo, Sims stated that construction costs for heavy renovation range from $240 to $270 per square foot. For new construction, that figure raises from $375 to $400 per square foot. 

Sims said the benefits for moving City Hall to the Amarillo Hardware building include the building’s 150,000 square feet, compared to the current 80,000 square feet of City Hall, giving the various departments room to grow, with still being adjacent to other city-owned properties. 

“You can see that there’s room, not only for us to move into that space but also, it gives us a lot of room to grow,” she said. 

Renovating the current location for city hall would come with its own challenges, not all of which are cosmetic, Sims said. The current facility is in need of the replacement of its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as updating the building up to energy code and to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

A newly constructed City Hall facility would bring higher construction costs and longer construction time, Sims said. However, that is not the biggest hurdle, especially with the need for City Hall to be in downtown Amarillo. 

“The biggest hurdle that we see with building new is a site. A city hall belongs downtown and it needs to be downtown,” she said. “So, when you start looking around downtown for a site to build a project like this, it doesn’t exist right now. For this size of a building and for some parking and things to go with it, you really need a full city block.” 

After highlighting those potential costs, the team from Sims + Architects presented new renderings, featuring what City Hall would look like if it moved to a renovated Amarillo Hardware building. Like previous presentations, the multi-story facility included open space for various departments to be housed, as well as a drive-through capability for Amarillo residents to conduct city business without having to come into the building. 

After an initial round of questions from the city council members surrounding the status of the City Hall project, Laura Storrs, an assistant city manager for the city of Amarillo, outlined potential funding sources for the project. This included the use of general obligation bonds, which would bring the decision to the voters, as well as the use of CO’s once again. 

Storrs also outlined other potential funding sources for the project, including tax notes, cash funding, revenue bonds or modifying the scope of the project and using multiple funding sources. 

This story is developing. Check with MyHighPlains.com for updates.

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