With only a handful of public comments, it didn’t take long for the Spokane Valley City Council to reach agreement to move forward with the conceptual design of a new city hall Tuesday night.
The three-story structure, to be constructed on the former University City site on the southeast corner of Dartmouth Road and Sprague Avenue, is expected to cost around $14.6 million – to be paid with $6.3 million in cash on hand and a 30-year bond issue -- and be completed in 2017.
But council members first had to sign off on a design that includes exterior brickwork, a cobblestone path that will mimic the Spokane River and 44,000 square feet of space.
“We know how important this is for you and the community,” said John Hohman, city community and economic development director. “(The city hall) should reflect our values but also showcase our potential.”
Talk of a city-owned municipal headquarters has been in the talks since before incorporation in 2003. While several ideas have been floated over the years – such as building on property near CenterPlace or reconfiguring the old Crescent building at University City – no one plan ever gained traction until recently.
Council members still will have to make decisions on details of the building before a ground-breaking next spring. They will have to decide on the size of the basement, for example, and whether or not council chambers should be located on the first floor.
Ron Schmidt, a fire commissioner with the Spokane Valley Fire Department, suggested planning for plenty of storage space.
“Right now, we don’t have enough,” Schmidt said of the department’s administration building, which was completed in 2012. “We used it all up in three years.”
“I like the overall design. It reminds me a bit of the high schools,” added Heather Graham. “My only gripe is the mayor and council offices are way up on the third floor.”
Council Member Ed Pace said he liked the idea of greater accessibility to the public and was supported by Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard.
“I think there is room for more refinement,” Woodard said.
Council Member Chuck Hafner countered, however, that much of the first floor would be devoted to building permit staffers.
“We are a part-time council,” he said. “If we were here full time, it would be different.”
More detailed reports on design options will come at future meetings, Hohman said.
“I’d just like to see the council involved in these choices,” Mayor Dean Grafos said.