The new City Hall will have a ground-floor entrance off Fountain Circle and a second-floor entrance at the intersection of Fountain Circle and Madison Street. (Goodwyn Mills Cawood rendering)
The first step in building a new Huntsville, Ala., City Hall project started earlier in February with the demolition of the old parking garage on Fountain Circle, a process expected to last 60 to 90 days.
The work comes on the heels of the Huntsville City Council approving the $76.8 million construction in December for a new city hall and parking garage set to be built on the site of the former downtown parking structure.
The council's resolution gave Mayor Tommy Battle permission to enter into an agreement between the city and Turner Construction Co., a national firm with an office in Huntsville, to build the new City Hall and parking deck project.
Huntsville General Services Director Ricky Wilkinson called the agreement a "significant milestone" for the municipality.
"This is a legacy project for the city as a whole," he said in a statement. "This is a structure that will stand for at least the next 75 years and have a huge impact on downtown Huntsville."
Parking Directed to Other Decks and Lots
The old deck was closed in January before being fully fenced off with bulldozers standing by a couple of weeks later. City parking officials told WHNT News 19 that leading up to the closure, and due to growth within the city, other decks and lots have been expanded to handle the traffic.
"There is a lot of construction going on in downtown Huntsville," Quisha Bryant, the city's director of parking and public transportation, told the Huntsville television station. "We are lucky in that we are growing and [doing so] at a great pace. We have recently opened a new side to our Garage M, which is directly across the street from the civic center. So, we've greatly increased our parking space numbers over there."
New City Hall Will Be a Big Upgrade
The new seven-story municipal building itself will span 170,000 sq. ft. and serve 365 employees. Huntsville city officials expect construction on the City Hall structure to begin this summer before finishing in about two years.
The adjoining parking deck will provide 568 spots, with the first floor designed for the public and the remaining six floors reserved for city use, WHNT News 19 reported.
Unlike the current City Hall, the new municipal structure will group interrelated departments to make it easier for citizens to conduct city business. In addition, it will offer room for growth, city officials told the TV station.
"We're currently located in a number of different buildings and some of the spaces we occupy are leased space," Wilkinson explained. "[There are] costs associated with that as well as the costs associated with maintaining and operating the buildings we are in. It's our intention to be much more efficient and get rid of some of those costs."
The Huntsville City Hall building now in use was constructed in 1963, but, according to Wilkinson, the 61,000-sq.-ft. facility has multiple problems, including:
- Inadequate structural integrity.
- A great need for code updates, such as those for ADA, building, fire, etc.
- Issues with the façade, including marble cracking and separating from the building, and sealant failure.
- A lack of available space in the building, illustrated by its need for 50 percent more space, and an inefficient layout.
- Obsolete electrical and elevator parts and inadequate service.
- Many of the mechanical systems in the current city hall have reached the end of their useful lives.
- Leaks in the building's façade and roof.
The current 512-space parking deck, built in 1965, also has issues that would require attention if it continued to be used, such as poor structural integrity, a need for code updates, inadequate electrical service and elevator serviceability.
When the new Huntsville City Hall opens, Wilkinson said employees will enjoy quality amenities, technology, security and public art.
He told WHNT News 19 that the folks working in City Hall are excited to see the project come to life, and eventually see the community be able to interact with it as well.
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