Columbia Heights explores options for new city hall location

By Vicki Ikeogu
Contributing Writer

Columbia Heights has begun its search for a new place to house city hall.

At the Monday, Sept. 25, meeting, city council members approved a $22,500 proposal from consulting firm Leo A Daly to explore various site options for city hall.

“In 2017, one of the goals the council had was the establishment of a master plan that would examine a new city hall,” said Kevin Hansen, Columbia Heights public works director. “Really, the framework of this master plan and what we were looking for out of this was to update our space needs.”

Hansen said a lot has changed with the current city hall since the last space needs and configuration plan was done in 1999.

“The use of the building has changed especially with the police and fire departments being (moved) out,” he said. “We felt it was appropriate to update the plan.”

Hansen said the Omaha, Nebraska-based consulting firm Leo A Daly was selected because of the work the firm had done in developing plans for the public library.

“They do know our city,” Hansen said. “And I think too, based off of the information they provided, that they have done a lot of (city hall master plans).”

The proposal, dated Sept. 21, outlines the goals of the study. According to the document, Leo A Daly consultants will conduct a space needs assessment to determine the appropriate square footage needed by staff members in city hall. The firm will then look at four possible sites for a new city hall building and configure in costs for upgrades, renovations or construction work needed to be done to build.

Hansen said the four sites in question are the current location of city hall, 590-40th Ave. NE; on top of the public safety building; on the property behind the public safety building; or on top of the library.

The master plan will strictly outline the potential footprint of the new facility. Hansen said no building design work will be done at this initial stage.
Leo A Daly consultants estimate the master plan will take between 2 to 3 months to complete.

“Once the cost is established and applied to each one of the four sites, then this would return to the council,” Hansen said. “We would like to bring this back to you along with some various funding scenarios. Right now, we are looking at right about the first part of 2018.”

Columbia Heights Mayor Donna Schmitt stated the city needs a new city hall.

“But the city manager (Walter Fehst) said there is a possibility of paying (for the new building) without bonding if we push the project forward a couple of years,” she said. “I would look forward to not having to go to residents and ask for additional bonding on this.”

As part the Monday, Sept. 25 approval, the council had to amend the 2017 budget to authorize the funding allocation. Money for the city hall needs assessment master plan is coming from the Columbia Heights general fund’s government buildings and capital improvement line item.