Council President Mark Jones said after a city work session that the council will vote on the matter during its Monday meeting. If approved, the plan could satisfy local business owners who worry that moving city offices away from the Public Square could hurt business.
“I think it ought to stay downtown, or near downtown,” said John Henricks, owner of Recollected Books in Jacksonville.
The city is eyeing a vacant building less than a mile from City Hall’s current location on Church Avenue just east of the square. The vacant building, a former fitness club at the southeast corner of Pelham Road and Vann Street Southeast, is just south of the square; Jones said that if the city acquires the property, it could be either demolished or renovated to accommodate new city offices.
“Our sentiment as well as the community all along was to try and find a place near the center of town to build a City Hall,” Jones said.
The City Council borrowed $14 million earlier this year to pay for the complex, which will be built south of town near Jacksonville High School. City leaders say the new complex will include space for the police department, the fire department and the city court.
The city asked architects to draw an additional set of blueprints to fold city offices into the development, but original estimates were between $3 million and $4 million more than city officials expected them to be. The council then agreed to pay an architect $108,000 to redraw the plan weeks ago to cut costs by eliminating amenities, but the members did not ask the architect to cut the City Hall option from the project at that time.
Now the city is trying cut the cost of the public safety complex to between $10.5 million and $11 million from $14 million. Dropping plans for a city hall from the project could save $3.2 million. That money would be dedicated to construction or renovation costs for a new city hall near the square, Jones said.
The building that currently houses city offices is too small and too old to meet the city’s needs, officials have said.
“We are busting at the seams at City Hall,” Jones said.
Officials won’t be sure how the change will affect the project until they hear back from architects. Simmons emailed them the news of the change Tuesday.
“I think everyone was in agreement to remove City Hall from the proposed location and move that project along as quickly as possible,” Jones said, referring to the public safety complex.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.