City hall options generate lively discussion; advisory committee to meet May 4

Terry Reckord and Rex Bond of Arc Architects answer questions during the April 20 meeting.

After listening to a range of opinions from a group of about 60 citizens gathered at the Mountlake Terrace Library Thursday night, April 20, the City Hall Advisory Committee has its work cut out for it when it holds its next meeting May 4.

For starters, citizens attending Thursday’s meeting had differing thoughts on whether any of the options now being considered — from the lowest-cost $12.9 million for a new 19,762 square-foot Mountlake Terrace City Hall building, to two two other options (at either $14.8 million or $16.5 million) for city hall plus 3,102 square feet of space for the police department — would garner support from voters. (You can see the handouts from the meeting here.)

“The risk of doing it and doing a bigger number is, you’ll lose,” said resident Len French. “The original promise last summer was a modest city hall and the committee has committed in earlier meetings that the priority (for a ballot measure) should be given to that rented administrative space.”

The City of Mountlake Terrace has been renting almost 17,000 square feet on the second floor of the Redstone Building at 6100 219th St. S.W. since 2009. The former city hall was torn down after the ceiling collapsed in 2008.

Voters have rejected two recent attempts to pass a ballot measure to build a new city hall. The most recent proposal, in 2013, received 53 percent of the vote. Capital bond measures need 60 percent to pass.

“We’ve been wasting money for years and years (on a rented city hall) and we need to find a way to convince the other 7 percent to get to ‘yes,'” French said. “The easiest way to do that is to take the less risky proposition and get it done.”

As a result of Thursday’s discussion, the committee will address at its May 4 meeting whether building a new city hall and adding on to the current police station should be separate, stand-alone ballot measures, rather than combined into one.

“The project goal states specifically city hall,” said Mountlake Terrace resident Victor Eskenazi, referring to the agreed-upon mission for the committee’s work: To develop an affordable concept design and cost estimate in support of a new City Hall at the Civic Center. “So to include only one proposal which includes the police, forget it,” he continued. “You’ve lost a lot of people. So I would highly recommend — stick to the project goal.”

Eskenazi and other speakers then went on to suggest there would be value in having a second proposition on the same ballot that would ask people who voted yes for city hall to indicate they would also support expanding the police station.

Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Greg Wilson has said the police department needs about double the space to function properly. The approximately 7,000-square-foot building that currently houses the department was built in 1991.

According to City Community Relations Director Virginia Olsen, city staff will bring back ideas on ways that two measures could be structured for the ballot. The committee also will be tasked with continuing to “sharpen the pencil” — a phrase used numerous times during Thursday’s meeting — regarding how much square footage is really needed for the new building, with a particular focus on “the difference between the square footage we have now and what came out of the space needs assessment,” Olsen said.

The City Hall Advisory Committee had previously asked for general cost estimates for the square footage that resulted from the space needs assessment. At the committee’s April 6 meeting, options ranged between $12 million and $16.5 million and included a base model standalone city hall, additional space for the police department, and a potential remodel of the current police station. Following that meeting, the city worked with ARC Architects to refine the “soft costs” of those options, including things like permits, environments surveys, traffic studies, impact fees, moving costs and borrowing costs. Those figures were presented at the April 20 community meeting along with the concepts for a preliminary layout.

During the meeting, ARC Architect Rex Bond reviewed the results of the first city hall community meeting, on March 28, when attendees stated their preference for locating a future city hall further back from the corner of 232nd Street and 58th Avenue, closer to the police and fire stations. Bond and landscape architect Terry Reckord then presented three different concepts — labeled A, B and C — of where the building, parking, entrances/exits, and connections could be located.

Both men stressed that the drawings were meant to be conceptual drawings, rather than architectural renderings of what the buildings would actually look like. The design process would come later, if a ballot measure is actually approved.

Audience members asked questions and provided feedback on what they liked and did not like about the concepts. Some of the issues raised included security for city hall and the police station; traffic circulation at the Civic Center property, which is also home to the Mountlake Terrace Library; connections from the site through Veterans’ Memorial Park to the future light rail station and interface of the building with the downtown.

Bond shared that a vision statement for the city hall project was developed from the most popular vision words provided at the first community meeting. Those words were welcoming, common, functional, family, and community. Four vision statements were put online for citizen input and the following statement received 80 percent of the vote, he said: “An efficient, functional City Hall and commons that is welcoming for families and the community.”

During the upcoming May 4 advisory committee meeting, city staff will be providing more detail on the space needs assessment results, including what spaces were added to the current square footage the city pays for in the interim city hall, Olsen said. The committee will discuss those items and ways to pare down the total project costs.

The May 4 meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the Interim City Hall, 6100 219th St. S.W., Ste. 220. The next community meeting will be May 10 at Cedar Way Elementary. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m.

For residents who cannot attend meetings, an online comment form is available on the City Hall Advisory Committee webpage.

For more information, you can email or call Olsen at 425-744-6206.

— By Teresa Wippel

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