In an effort to bring the bulk of city management under one roof, the City of Kent plans to construct a city hall in 2020.
Gwen Rosenberg, councilwoman-at-large for Kent City Council, said having a designated city hall building will be a first for Kent.
“There was a vision to have a sort of city campus, with a police department, fire department (and) city hall,” Rosenberg said. “The city hall as it was was kind of broken up into different spaces.”
Consolidation of many of the city management departments will help round out this vision.
The city hall will be constructed in place of the old police station on the corner of Haymaker Pkwy and S. Water Street. That building was vacated in early August 2018 after the Kent City PD moved into the new station on S. Depeyster Street.
Rosenberg said the plans to build a new city hall have been in place for years, but with everything falling into place, the city can move forward into the design phase.
“We have an architecture firm who is working on some preliminary designs, but really some of the guidance on the general feel for what we want it to look like is coming from City Council,” Rosenberg said. “We weigh in on, ‘What do we need?’ ‘How many square feet do we need?’ Is the health department gonna be a part of (the design process)?’ What about the service department? Who all is going to use this city hall?’ Then that, of course, impacts costs and things like that. So, it’s a number of small decision that lead up to the larger outcome.”
The design firm, Brandsetter Carroll, has been meeting with City Council since January, and the council has conducted visits to other nearby city halls, researched further away city halls of similar sizes and had forum discussions among the council members to discuss what should be housed within a city hall.
In September, they brought forth a proposed floor plan, as well as before and after maps, to take comments from council members. Updated floor plans for all three floors, as well as a rendering of what the outside of the building will look like, was presented the next month. During this meeting, held Wed., Oct. 17, Brandsetter Carroll representative Nancy Nozik presented the rendering to council members and Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala.9.19.18-Work-Session-Minutes-signed
Councilman John Kuhar noted, “He doesn’t like much of anything, but likes how the building is looking,” according to official minutes. The general response from council was positive.
Rosenberg said, even though residents are invited to join the feedback process in these early stages at council meetings, the feedback process will soon extend to be more public-facing in the coming months.
“If you’re going to make this kind of investment in your community — It’s not that often people build city halls or even police departments,” Rosenberg said. “This is really a very special opportunity the city has to design something really beautiful that the residents can be really proud of. (What residents are saying is,) ‘Let’s make this count, let’s do something really interesting here.’”
To get feedback from residents, Rosenberg said Brandsetter Carroll and City Council will be conducting focus group meetings to get direct reactions, while also making efforts to meet residents where they are.
“If there’s public events or settings that we can get these designs — like some of the festivals in the summer or something like that, where there’s a lot of people walking around — there’s very often a very good opportunity to let people see what we’re doing and let (Brandsetter Carroll) take note of some of their comments and stuff like that,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg noted they will take those steps forward once the finer details are hammered out.
“A lot of (discussion), so far, as been more limited to who is going to be in this building, what is the square footage, getting the architects to the point where they can wrap their arms around what our needs are as a city,” Rosenberg said. “Once we have that ironed out, then it will be much easier for residents to weigh in on the elements of it that are impactful to them.”
Despite limited feedback, there is one piece of the puzzle Rosenberg has a clear understanding of public opinion on.
“Residents don’t want to pay more in taxes, of course, so budget is a big part of it,” Rosenberg said.
In the October council meeting with Brandsetter Carroll, City Manager Dave Ruller noted the cost of the city hall will be around $5.7 million, and at that point the financing had yet to be determined.
“Property that the city had owned was sold and a developer put an apartment building on it,” Rosenberg said. “Then the proceeds from that sale were then to be used to fund the building of a new city hall.”
This funding source, along with city money that has been designated for this project over the past few years, is expected to cover the cost with minimal expense to residents.
“We don’t have a firm number yet, but thanks to the advance preparation of the (city) government before I got here (a year ago), we should have some options, and I don’t believe we’ll need a levy for it,” Rosenberg said.