Repurposed Vacant Building into City Hall and Regional Library
This city hall didn’t begin in the usual way. Now housing the council chamber, regional library, and the town’s only indoor pool, we took a vacant and unfinished 5-story office building and converted it into a multi-function facility that serves the town. The city hall offices are located on the 3rd and 4th floors, while the regional library is on the 5th. Twenty-foot spacing is typical for office buildings but the existing structural bay layout was based on 15-foot spacing, which was a key challenge that we accepted and conquered. We developed a very efficient plan that met all of the adjacencies and privacy levels necessary for office space, while meeting the requirements for all of the functions in the building. The council chamber is housed on the 4th floor with a large ceremonial curving stairway added to provide access from the new entry on the 3rd floor level. The indoor pool, which is the only pool in the city and was the basis for the financial case to transform the building rather than to demolish it, was left on the 1st floor and provides a further amenity to serve the well being of the community.
There were several challenges posed by the location of the existing structure. Because the building was located on a steep slope at the edge of town, the 5-story side of the structure faced the picturesque downtown, while the 3-story side faced away from it but contained the front door. Another elevation remained unfinished but housed existing penthouses that could not be relocated. We created a design plan that placed a new entrance on the upper side of the hill, close to the parking lot, and then used a series of stairs and ramps to connect it to the rest of the town below. A garden/courtyard was carved out to provide an enchanting refuge while accommodating access. The new entry at the top of the slope was designed as a large porch with views across the valley to the hills beyond, and contains the book drop, flag poles, signage, and stairs and ramps we created. Finally, a new city hall façade was tied into the existing penthouses. These design elements re-established the building as part of the city itself.
The re-use and re-purposing of a vacant building that at the same time contributes to the vitalization of the city is the ultimate in sustainability. Other sustainable design practices employed in this project include the upgrading of the HVAC system and the utilization of durable finishes for long lasting life.