City Council members got their first look at the plans for the new City Hall on Tuesday night and they liked what they saw. The plans call for Park Boulevard to lead to a public plaza where it now peters out at State Street. Wrapped around the plaza would be the two-story City Hall, with an arcade around the first floor to provide shade from the sun and shelter from rain. There would be parking behind the building.
That picture of the future, presented by architects Bob Bitterli and Rick Rados, won the council's unanimous approval Tuesday, despite an objection from a member of the city's downtown redevelopment board.
The council hired Bitterli & Associates last month to design the new City Hall and warned the company that the project can't cost more than $1.01-million. Bitterli promised city officials they could move into the new building by April 1991. He said he would give them cost estimates next month.
The building is being planned for 2.5 acres next to the AmeriBank building on State Street. City officials hope to make it the centerpiece of a redeveloped downtown.
State Street was once lined with shops, offices and hotels. Then three disasters struck: The Florida land boom of the 1920s went bust in 1926, a tidal wave from Tampa Bay swept 15 feet of water through downtown in 1927, and in 1929 the stock market crashed. Many people who lost their fortunes moved away.
Now State Street is a quiet, tree-lined boulevard with virtually no pedestrian traffic. Four years ago city officials moved out of the old City Hall there, seeking larger quarters, and more recently the U.S. Postal Service moved out of its old State Street post office.
City officials hope to turn the former City Hall into a library and they already have bought the old post office and turned it into the council's chambers.
They want to move the rest of the city offices out of rented quarters in the North Shore Commerce Park, which cost $50,000 a year, and into their own building.
Bitterli called the State Street site "challenging," because it backs up to Tampa Road, which the state is supposed to expand eventually. That probably would mean the state would take some of the city land for right of way.
The plans the architect showed the council call for putting the
14,000-square-foot building, the first phase of the project, as close to the State Street side of the property as possible, in front of the
2,600-square-foot council chambers.
The second phase would provide 26,000 square feet of space. The old post office would be torn down and the council chambers would move to a new site directly behind the plaza.
The plaza, which could be used for festivals and other public functions, is the centerpiece of the design, Bitterli told the council. "The building wraps around it for light and focus," he said.
But the first phase would in effect require the construction of two buildings, one on either side of the plaza, linked only by the arcade.
Only in the second phase, slated for completion about 2010, would the two become a single building.
That prompted some concern on the part of Jackie Cabana, vice chairman of the city's downtown redevelopment board. Building two buildings will cause duplication of air conditioning, heating and other requirements, she said.
"It would be cheaper to build one building than two half-buildings," Cabana said.
What if a person in one side of City Hall wanted to talk to somebody on the other side, she asked.
"They'd pick up a telephone," Vice Mayor Richard Massman said.
Massman defended the architects' plans as "not the cheapest way to do it, but it's aesthetically pleasing."
Bitterli promised to tell the board next month what the cost would be for the duplication, compared to the cost of starting phase one with a single building.