The city estimates it will cost city taxpayers $50 million-plus to build a brand-new City Hall or up to $4.3 million for a $39 million renovation before the flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall can return to life with better flood protection and room for program growth.
But over 50 years, the city’s financial analysis says the cost to local taxpayers of the two options, once “ongoing” costs and flood-insurance costs are factored in, will be close to the same — $94.5 million for the Veterans Memorial Building and $91.1 million for a new City Hall.
The calculation for the build-a-new-City-Hall option becomes more attractive by the way flood insurance is figured against the Veterans Memorial Building and by an estimated savings of $23.2 million over time because city departments like parks, recreation and engineering will be in a newly constructed City Hall and not in separate city buildings like they are now.
These estimates and many more related to the city’s key flood-damaged facilities and its parks and recreation system will on view today at an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. in the ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel, 350 First Ave. NE, and again from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Dan Thies, president/CEO of OPN Architects Inc. of Cedar Rapids, says that this week’s open houses are intended to prompt input from citizens and show just how “very complex” the variables are that are part of making decisions about the city’s flood-damaged buildings.
“Is there a better way to provide the services that the city delivers, and what does that look like?” he asks. “Does everybody just kind of reoccupy a former existing building they were in? Is there a different existing building that they can reoccupy? Is there a combination?”
Among the variables is flood insurance: The total cost estimate over time for returning City Hall to the flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building includes a $23.5 million cost for flood insurance while there is no cost for flood insurance at a new City Hall because it would be built in a spot that doesn’t require flood insurance.
The city must renovate the historic, flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building even if it builds a new City Hall. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay most of the cost of that work, estimated between $36 million and $39 million. Tenants apparently would pay the cost of flood insurance if city government was in a new City Hall.
Another City Hall option would be to put all that would go in a newly built City Hall at Westdale Mall. This option is the most costly to taxpayers: At least $63 million of an initial cost of $71 million and $115 million over time.
At this week’s open houses, the city will display 126 poster boards of information on city facilities.
The one on the Veterans Memorial Building notes that the seven-story building prevented the expansion of department spaces due to the building’s site and historic constraints even before the June 2008 flood. Altering the building’s large, little-used auditorium now would be a “detriment” to the building’s history. Post-flood, the building “carries an inherent risk for future occupants.”
As for building a new City Hall, a poster board states, “By creating a ‘one-stop’ facility, it can offer greater services and increase its presence in the community. All new state-of-the-art technology and building practices can be incorporated to make this new building one of the most sustainable in the state.”