The first of two proposed phases of renovation on the historic city hall has entered into design with a $860,360 contract to develop a plan for improved safety and functionality.
The annex behind the main city hall building, 823 25th St., is on track for a spring or late summer demolition, after completion of the new fire station at 26th Street and Sealy Avenue and new public works facilities on Market Street, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.
Removing the annex will clear the way for some much-needed improvements to city hall, Barnett said.
“One of the reasons the renovation is necessary is to add bathrooms to each floor and additional fire exits, as well as create a better layout of space to house staff,” Barnett said.
The city also hopes to improve heating and air-conditioning, she said.
“We’ve got some repairs that need to get done pretty quickly,” City Manager Brian Maxwell said. “We’re losing some bricks and we’re getting quite a bit of water penetration into the building.”
The current annex building, constructed in 1964, isn’t a functional space for its current use of housing Galveston Fire Department, information technology and planning staff, Maxwell said.
Once demolished, the annex will be replaced with green space, Maxwell said.
“The General Land Office wanted to build a new fire station and part of the cost of rebuilding that new station is the removal of the old building,” Maxwell said.
The city is getting some money from Community Development Block Grants, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said. Some general funds also will be used, he said.
The city has a preliminary budget but this is based on extensive renovations, Barnett said.
“It would be premature to estimate the first wave cost until the overall plan is more developed,” Barnett said.
While the renovations currently in design will focus on city hall’s functionality, Yarbrough would like to bring the building back to a more historic state and provide a space for artists to exhibit work, he said.
“We’ve long talked about having city hall as a venue for local artists’ work for exhibit spaces to showcase what local Galveston artists can do,” Yarbrough said.
None of this renovation would be built using money from the city’s Arts and Historic Preservation Advisory Board, Yarbrough said.
Having a gallery at city hall would be exciting for the island art community, Commission on the Arts Chairman Nick Barbee said.
“I think that we should have artwork in more places, including government buildings,” Barbee said. “There have been a lot of ideas thrown around but nothing, so far, is concrete.”
On the other hand, Maxwell proposed a small area to showcase some historic documents held by city hall.
“We are the keeper of a lot of Galveston history,” Maxwell said. “We have nowhere to really capture and celebrate that stuff.”
Regardless, the first wave of remodeling is much welcome, Chief Information Technology Officer Hope Dean said.
“Our information technology department utilizes space in the city hall annex to house 10 staff members and their equipment,” Dean said. “The functionality of the space is less than optimal.”
While demolition of the annex is scheduled for late spring, Yarbrough doesn’t think the fire station or public works building will be ready until the summer, moving the annex building’s demolition back to late 2019, Yarbrough said.