Alexandria City Hall is a local historic landmark, in addition to its role as a civic center, but it’s showing its age.
The City Manager’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget will allocate $83.3 million to renovate City Hall (301 King Street) and $35.3 million to lease or create swing space for use during the overhaul of the City Hall building provided.
The proposed budget states that the project will include some demolition and HVAC work, requiring relocation of city employees during the project. The town hall was rebuilt in 1871 after its predecessor was destroyed in a fire.
“This project was initiated with the goal of replacing the obsolete heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and life safety systems that have reached the end of their life cycle and to make any necessary structural repairs,” the budget reads. “This work will require the demolition of ceilings and lighting, as well as the disruption of HVAC and life safety systems in the work areas, requiring workers to be temporarily relocated to a pivot room for the duration of the work.”
In the last two years, a number of city employees have transitioned to working from home and discussions about City Hall’s renovation take this into account.
According to the proposed CIP budget: “With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of city employees working from home, which has also increased the level of unused or rarely used office space. If COVID-19 is no longer an issue, if there is still significant work from home, then reconsider the use of the office space, including how City Hall offices should be designed for this new future of work.”
Budget issues in recent years have also delayed the project from starting in fiscal 2024 rather than fiscal 2023, as has an increase in construction costs.
The budget also notes that the renovation goes beyond just HVAC and structural replacements as an opportunity to rethink the flow of the very dated building’s interiors:
Because the HVAC, life safety and structural work has a significant impact on the disruption to workspace and building operations, and requires the cost of temporary swap space, it is reasonable to do it concurrently with the newly proposed space planning and space remodeling. The goal of space planning and remodeling is to eliminate the inefficiencies of the building layout, improve circulation and wayfinding, improve workflows between different departments, and create a modern, green, healthy, safe, and sustainable work environment for employees and for the residents to do business.
What that doesn’t include, at least for now, is some of the long-discussed and controversial potential to add private use to the building to offset some of that cost.
In an email to ALXnow, city officials said that “swing space” — in the context of City Hall’s renovation — referred solely to workspaces for employees and that there had been no further discussions about other uses of the building since the project was paused Pandemic.