MADEIRA BEACH — Construction will begin this month on a $10 million municipal complex that officials and residents say will change the face of Madeira Beach.
The new City Hall, fire station and recreational complex will take more than a year to complete, but when done will offer residents and visitors expanded opportunities for recreation and civic events, not to mention a waterfront vista from the fully glassed, circular City Commission chambers.
"This is a momentous occasion," City Manager Shane Crawford said in December when the commission unanimously approved the multimillion-dollar project.
Michele Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner in softball and resident of nearby Treasure Island, praised the commission's decision to create a tournament-level series of ballfields.
"I view you guys as progressive. This project is huge," she said.
And unlike earlier contentious meetings that drew sharp opposition when the commission first began considering building a new municipal complex, not one resident spoke in opposition.
"When you build something really new and really neat, everybody feels good about it," said resident Robin Stach.
Another resident, Robert Shaw, said the commission and administration "should be applauded" for the project.
The turnkey complex was designed by Wannemacher Jensen Architects and will be built by Hennessy Construction.
The existing City Hall and fire station will remain in operation during construction of the new facilities, a process that is expected to take about 16 months.
Architect Jason Jensen said the buildings were designed for maximum efficiency, while taking advantage of the full waterfront exposure for both the new City Hall and recreation center.
The buildings are "just the size and complexity they need to be," said Hennessy contractor Mark Stalker.
The entire site encompasses more than half of a finger extending into the Intracoastal Waterway just north of the Tom Stuart Causeway and Bridge.
The north side of the municipal site will feature walkways along the water with benches and shaded areas where visitors can have picnics, Jensen said.
All the rooms in the new City Hall, which includes administrative offices, commission chambers, a multipurpose room and fitness center, have water views.
The building will rest on pilings raising it well above flood level.
Visitors will access the rooms either by stairs or elevator or can walk to the waterfront area by a tunnel under the building's main deck.
The water side of the building will be landscaped with a sloping berm extending from the deck to the waterfront walkway.
Most parking will be located roughly where the existing City Hall now sits, as well as along the southern edge of the recreational fields along Rex Place.
Two special parks for small and large dogs were also included in the site design.
The fire station, now a part of the present City Hall building, will be located closer to the existing library and is designed so that fire trucks can drive straight through the equipment bays.
Three main softball fields will be rebuilt and enlarged east of the City Hall and fire station.
A fourth multipurpose rectangular field suitable for soccer or special events, as well as the new recreation center, will be located on the eastern point of the finger.
"The fields are all the correct size to attract tournaments," said Jensen.
The recreation center, which also has broad views of the Intracoastal Waterway, has a covered area that will allow outdoor activities during inclement weather. Bathroom facilities are accessible for park visitors.
The center includes a multipurpose room, a catering kitchen, lobby, game room and homework room.
The extensively glassed facility can also be rented for events and weddings.
A large blank wall can be used for movie projection, while the shape of the building allows it to be used as a band shell, Jensen said.
The exterior recreation area includes tennis and basketball courts, a concession stand and a playground area.
Hennessy Construction has given the city a $10 million guaranteed maximum building cost for the complex.
This includes costs for site work, actual construction, landscaping, fixtures, furnishings, equipment and a $200,000 contingency fund, but does not include $220,000 needed for computer hardware, which will be purchased separately by the city.