Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Provo Municipal Council mulls options for new city building

If the financial numbers and property needs match up with Provo residents’ approval, the former Sears building at Provo Towne Centre mall could become the new Provo City Hall.

After weeks of closed-door discussions, the city administration brought forward the option of purchasing the Sears building and outer buildings to the Municipal Council in its Tuesday work meeting. The buildings would be used for the new city building and public safety buildings.

The Sears proposal would offer 135,000 square feet, projected to fulfill the population growth needs beyond 2040.

Wayne Parker, chief administrative officer, presented three scenarios for a new city building or redo.

The first scenario includes purchasing the Sears building and outer building at Provo Towne Centre and remodel. The cost would be approximately $44.5 million.

According to Parker this scenario would provide three important advantages including adequate parking, public transit and strengthening Provo Towne Centre.

Scenario two includes remodeling city hall and building a new police, fire and dispatch building on current property. The cost would be approximately $45.5 million.

This scenario would still leave Provo with a 50-year-old building that would be costly to maintain. There would also be costs involved with a temporary relocation during remodeling.

The third scenario includes building a brand new city hall, police, fire and dispatch building on the current property. The cost would be approximately $59.7 million.

While this scenario offers a brand new building, Parker said it would not offer any better parking options.

Provo’s Fire Station No. 2 on Canyon Road is falling apart, and is undersized for the area needs, according to Parker. It would take $4.5 million to replace it on city land. That cost is included in all three scenarios for the new city and safety buildings.

In his presentation, Police Chief Rich Ferguson noted that a 2012 study on Provo’s city building needs showed deep concerns for the public safety offices.

“This has the life cycle of a 90-year-old building,” Ferguson noted from the study.

Both Parker and Ferguson shared photos of severe structural cracks, mold, janitor’s closets turned into offices and former jail cells being used for storage as evidence there is a need for a larger, newer building.

Provo’s administration has been looking at options for a new city building in earnest since 2013. In 2017, the council got a fresh look at a new construction concept.

The continuing deterioration of the building and the lack of space and safety for the police and fire departments have pushed the need to the front burner again.

According to John Borget, director of administrative services, if the city took out a 20-year general obligation bond for scenario 1, it would cost homeowners $7.29 per month on an average home costing $265,000. Businesses would pay $25 a month.

Councilman David Harding asked what the general obligation bond level was in the city. Borget said the library bond has been paid off. Besides a bond for the city center, the Provo Recreation Center bond would be the other.

Brixton Capital, owner of the Provo Towne Centre has been approached by the city to take out an option to buy on the Sears property.

According to Dave Walter, director of the redevelopment agency, it would cost $350,000 to take the Sears building off the market, and would give the city and residents six months to decide and vote on the matter.

If the Sears option were selected, the money would go to the price of the sale. If not, it would be lost.

Y2K Analytics recently completed surveys on the matter with potential voters. Of those answering the surveys, 729 potential votes, 71 percent thought the city was moving in the right direction.

The major takeaway from questions centered on the city hall options is that the location doesn’t matter as long as the city is run efficiently.

The council is hoping to get more information in front of the public, including educating on the real needs and concerns about the city.

The council will determine if they will vote on putting money on the Sears option during the July 17 meeting. The council needs to make a determination on what they will do in order to get the proposition on the November ballot.


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