When voters in Cottonwood Heights approved a $14.5 million bond for construction of a new city hall last year, civic leaders may have thought the hard part of getting the project going was done. It wasn’t.
Since last summer, city leaders, planners and staff members have been working with architects to create a floor plan for the new building, which will serve as the government complex and a city center for various events. The problem is that once those architects began incorporating everything proposed from various department heads and the city council members themselves into the equation, the cost to build it exceeded the bond.
“Unfortunately, we kind of did it backwards,” Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, Jr. said. “We hurried to secure the bonds first to catch lower interest rates, but in the process of doing that, based on preliminary estimates of the cost to build, we came up short.”
How short? About $2 million.
So for the last few months, council members and city leaders have been working together to pare down their plans—which they’ve done by about $1 million—and to finalize the look and feel of the new building. The city acquired five acres of land north of Brighton High School for the new center. That included buying and demolishing several homes in the area. The land cost was about $800,000 an acre.
“We knew that we were planning a 50-year building,” Cullimore said. “We’re building it on very expensive land, so we want to maximize that parcel and look ahead to future adjacent developments that might be developed on that land.”
One desire that Cullimore and council members have is the public room that will be in the center of the complex: a community room of sorts that could be used for receptions, parties or other events. The initial design was for a room that several on the council felt might be too small to adequately host such events. Department heads also had to sacrifice some of the space they wanted for their areas in order to bring the cost down.
City Manager John Park told the council that he’s looking at options to make up the $1 million gap between the bonded amount and the estimated final cost. He said money from other budgets might be shifted to fund the new building.
“There were really two hang-ups for moving forward—the financial side and the external expressions of the building,” Cullimore said.
On the latter point, designers have presented the council with several different renderings, the interior being quite modern and efficient, and the exterior offering looks ranging from modern and artsy to more conservative and traditional. A 3D presentation of the building impressed council members, but they have remained a bit torn about the exterior look.
At a work session on Jan. 27, council members agreed to talk to friends and family members about the proposed looks, to get their feedback. Cullimore said he hoped a final decision could be reached when the council met for their annual retreat on Feb. 3, after our press deadline.
“We want to get going, but we also want to get it right,” he said. “I think we’re very close, and I know everyone involved is anxious to get this project started.”
Cullimore said once construction begins, it’s estimated that completion will take about a year.