The city of St. Helena is facing a $12.8-$14 million price tag for a new City Hall and $16 million for a new library.
Even remodeling the existing library into a new City Hall would cost approximately $8.5-$10 million, according to estimates presented Tuesday to the council by consultants Noll & Tam Architects.
The council asked Noll & Tam to prepare rough sketches and cost estimates for four options involving City Hall, the library, a new multi-purpose room/council chambers, a new Parks & Rec building at Crane Park, and improvements to Lyman Park.
The four options ranged from $41.7 million to $45.3 million, not including an optional underground parking garage ($4.1-$4.6 million). Noll & Tam’s estimates are for construction costs only and don’t include 20-30% soft costs and cost escalation of about 5% per year.
A multi-purpose room/council chambers that could host council meetings and community events was estimated at $8.5 million. A Parks & Rec building was estimated at $7.4 million.
The estimates are based on construction costs of $900-$1,157 per square foot for new construction and $600-$626 for renovations.
The council didn’t take action or identify a preferred option on Tuesday. City Manager Mark Prestwich said he would come back in a few weeks to propose a citizen-based expert task force to evaluate the city’s funding options and consider site selection.
A rough timetable calls for the task force to be in place before the Christmas holiday, with possible council action in April 2020.
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All four options place City Hall on the Adams Street property along Library Lane. A few members of the public urged the council to consider a fifth option that wasn’t among the council’s original list: Rebuilding City Hall on its current site and remodeling the library.
“It seems to make a lot of common sense to leave City Hall downtown … and leave the library alone,” said Tom Faherty. “Everybody loves the library where it is and loves the way it is. Just ask the people who use it and staff it.”
What Faherty and others called “Option 5” was one of the options proposed by the SHAPE Committee, which evaluated the city’s public facilities in 2017-2018.
Mayor Geoff Ellsworth said that option and others mentioned in the SHAPE Committee’s report “are still on the table.”
Prestwich said Noll & Tam’s estimates are “plug and play,” meaning that the cost to build a particular building at one site would be roughly the same as building it somewhere else.
Councilmember Mary Koberstein defended the council’s decision to focus on City Hall on Library Lane and reserve the City Hall site for a different use that could benefit downtown businesses.
“We decided we should at least look at whether something could happen on the City Hall property that would be more than an office building,” she said. “Something that would not be closed at night, that would not be closed all weekend, that might be able to do something to help the downtown.”