Initial estimates show new City Hall could cost $16.58 million

The City Hall Advisory Committee discusses initial project costs during its meeting on April 6. (Photo by Natalie Covate)

The City Hall Advisory Committee for the first time saw the estimated total project cost for the new City Hall during its meeting on April 6.

That number comes in at $16.58 million, which includes $9.83 million in hard costs and $4.9 million in soft costs for a new 19,762 square-foot City Hall building and 3,102 square feet of space for the Police Department. Approximately $1.8 million of the budget would be set aside for a police station remodel.

Those numbers were reached by looking at the industry average square footage costs, at $430 per square foot total for the building, related site work and plaza. Soft costs were estimated at 50 percent, which Rex Bond of ARC Architects said is considered to be on the high end.

City Hall Advisory Committee members expressed their concern with a total project cost of $16.58 million.

“At 17 million, we are way out of the ballpark,” Committee member Stephen Barnes said.

“I don’t disagree,” Committee member Dustin DeKoekkoek said. “I think this is definitely on the high side.”

The committee received a chart outlining project costs from other similar projects in the region. Mukilteo’s City Hall, for example, cost $350 per square foot in January 2008. If that were to be built today, the adjusted costs are estimated at $392.04 per square foot. Port Townsend’s City Hall Annex, built in March 2003, cost $312.50 per square foot, or $497 adjusted.

The most recent project listed, which is Union Gap’s City Hall and Police Station built in January 2017, cost $324.19 per square foot.

Soft costs for the project include things like sales tax, architectural and engineering fees, construction contingency, traffic impact fees, permitting fees and testing fees, among many other possible costs related to the project. Of those fees, however, three are guaranteed. Sales tax will cost 10.3 percent of the construction costs. Architectural and engineering fees will cost 12.5 percent, and a 10-percent construction contingency is required in the budget.

Based on those fees alone, soft costs would be 32.8 percent. While soft costs may not reach 50 percent, they are expected to reach at least 45 percent, according to ARC Architect’s cost estimator.

While $16.58 million is the initial estimate for the total project costs, that number has the potential to shift up or down, depending on any efficiencies that are used in the design or any additions that are included.

More information about the costs, as well as preliminary designs, will be presented to the public at the second Community Meeting, which will take place on Thursday, April 20 at the Mountlake Terrace Library, 23300 58th Ave. W. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with a presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Preliminary design ideas, Bond said, will include a new City Hall building set farther away from the street, based on feedback received at the first Community Meeting in March.

To give input on the project, click here to fill out the city’s online comment form.

  1. This is a really good start. Last time the city hall was on the ballot it was a 25 million dollar decision for voters. 16.5 million is going in the right direction and the citizen advisory committee appears to be focused on making a cost efficient recommendation.
    Everyone can be involved in this by attending meetings which are open to the public.

  2. This might be a foolish question, but didn’t we already vote for a certain budgeted amount? I think most citizens don’t want to have to attend meetings to keep this project affordable, we are hoping the previous not-passed proposals made it clear we want a budget-friendly option, only.

  3. “The county added 16,600 people from 2014 to 2015, reaching 757,600 as of April 1….Snohomish County is on pace to grow by another 200,000 people by 2035.” (Noah Haglund, HeraldNet. July 2, 2015. Snohomish County is the fastest growing county in the state. It seems to me that either we pay now and plan for that growth or we pay more later in planning and building costs. More people, more police, more medical facilities, more planning, more courtrooms. I don’t like higher costs either, but I’m not going to like them any better later.

  4. The “either we pay now and plan for that growth or we pay more later” argument would be persuasive were it not for our own experience.  Each time we insisted on a more reasonable proposition, the cost went down.  Originally the civic center was going to cost $45 million in 2009.   By 2010 that had become $37 million.  That ballot measure failed.  Then, in 2012 and 2013 the city could somehow be content with a $25 million civic center.  Both those measures also failed.

    Now we have civic center lite for $16.58 million, but what is still missing is any transparency concerning how it is that this figure is justified either. Maybe this time the Citizen Committee will provide that. After this interim of almost 8 years what isn’t missing is a powerful mistrust among taxpayers of those who present these numbers to them without sufficient proof of the necessity. 

    1. Mr. French, for the next four years there is a $0.19 levy lift assessed per $1,000 of property tax valuation, which will cover rent for City Hall over that period of time. Beyond that, if there is no completed City Hall, another levy lift will be needed to take its place. You will no doubt oppose it and you will no doubt lose, again, so let’s assume that it will have to be replaced.

      Calculate the value of eliminating that levy lift replacement in four years. What’s the value of that? There’s your transparency – a fixed cost that will be incurred by the City, and paid for by taxpayers, if there’s not a City Hall to move into within four years

      Want more transparency? You have been watching nine of your fellow citizens, Mr. French, including one member of your former cabal, holding open meetings to determine what is necessary, then publicizing the meetings in places like MLT News,, and here:

      Some of them are going out of their way to encourage attendance at these meetings. What is it about that you don’t find to be transparent?

      What your neighbors and friends have come up with, to this point, is an interim figure of $16+ million, for a project which has not yet undergone value engineering, and which includes substantial costs for a police station remodel and upgrade, which I would suggest be partitioned away from the civic part of the project in future discussions because 1) it’s a separate building and because 2) one way or another there will be some law enforcement facility upgrades to pay for in the next few years.

      After the VE phase there will be a smaller and firmer cost number and, very probably, some forthcoming statements by the committee’s members to support that cost, which probably will be acceptable to all but those with the most severe case of sour grapes.

      Mr. French, how much to rent the current City Hall space four years from now? With further population growth over the next few decades, how much more space will the City need to lease than it leases now, and how much more will that cost? Now back-extrapolate those to derive a value of a constructed City Hall without the police facility costs.

      People who have volunteered their time, Mr. French, have provided substantial information, regularly updated throughout the process, to anyone willing to attend a meeting or read a blog post. The City has updated as well – see above. There’s transparency all over the place, for anyone with a sufficiently open mind to digest the information. That you are not happy with what you have learned does not change the fact that everything has been derived openly and honestly.

      As you continue to oppose any and all forms of City spending, Mr. French, make sure you are sufficiently “transparent” with those you attempt to persuade to accept your viewpoint to ensure that they understand that one way or another, they’re going to be paying for City Hall and for an upgraded police building.

  5. I would like to know what the difference is in cost of $45 million on 2009 and now $16.58 million now in 2017, other than the cost itself! I’d like to know where and what exactly made this such a disparaging difference? Is it your claim Mr. Kramer that the “valued engineering” costs is going to substantially increase this $16.58 million dollar figure? The advisory committee has had these open meetings and that is wonderful! Thank-u. But that doesn’t mean that people of MLT that don’t attend these meetings do not have an overall interest in keeping these numbers reasonable and that we don’t deserve an explanation from where every penny funding the new City Hall is coming from, including the “cog” that runs the wheel. Your over-all tone to Mr.French seemed disrespectful to me?!

    1. It is not being disrespectful to Mr. French. It is simply an accurate and concise summary of his opposition to ANY spending by the citizens of the city under the guise of protecting taxpayer’s money. As to the differences in estimated costs, we originally included space for the senior center (now at Ballinger Park), undeveloped space for future growth, public space and a number of other things to make City Hall viable for the life of the building as opposed to becoming obsolete in a few years and requiring extensive remodeling and expansion. Unlike, Mr. French, many of us had the foresight to try and anticipate future needs of the city instead of short-changing the citizens of Mountlake Terrace with a building adequate for only a few years. Thanks to Mr. French and others, we missed the opportunity to take advantage of much lower building costs and incurred additional rental costs which are simply taxpayer’s money down the drain. Those same people bemoan the loss of the old city hall. They fail to admit the old building hugely obsolete, extremely unsafe and totally inadequate for even the basic needs of the public. Those of us who are long-time residents and have personally seen the limitations and actual problems and failings of the old City Hall know it needed to be torn down and replaced long before that actually occurred. We are also wise enough to understand that constructing a cheap inadequate building is a short-term, futile approach that is a long-term, financially irresponsible disaster for the citizens of Mountlake Terrace.

  6. I have watched the citizen committee process from the beginning. I have also been involved in providing frequent input. I can say the committee has an eye on keeping their process focused on keeping costs down.
    In addition this has been a VERY TRANSPARENT process right down to including spread sheets on space requirements as well as looking at usable space in other buildings. Initial cost estimates are already down 30% and they are still looking ways to cut that.
    As far as the additional space needed for our police department, that is much needed. The building they are currently in is dismal and unsafe from my perspective. I wish more of the public had toured this facility when given the opportunity.

    I really don’t see folks trying to create a “Taj Mahal” and I believe the committee and city is focused on bringing home a cost effective facility.
    What I’m not hearing is a proposal for what our city should do when the lease is up on the interim city hall.

  7. Although a blue collar community, MLT citizens have always been generous when it comes to the proven necessity of new capital projects.  Until the 3 super-inflated city hall propositions, no bond measure had ever failed dating to the 1967 Recreation Pavilion. (I’ve been here awhile too.)  In the 1980s, I voted for both the Library and the Police station measures.  I would have voted for a reasonable Fire Station proposition had the council of 2003 applied some cost discipline and also have had the courage to put it on the ballot.

    Transparency in the current instance requires more than simply reading spreadsheets with the latest iteration of each departments space requests and more than a faith that what staff requests and their architect verifies are essential.  They are working within an unreasonably short time line, but our Citizen Committee nonetheless has the responsibility to place all of those figures in the appropriate context of what other cities have accomplished and also explore all options. Then present both the space needs and the costs per square foot of those requests so they can be understood by voters.   At another website, Mr. Kramer had a good idea I have not heard the Committee address.  “With a (reasonably) firm set of costs in hand and a firm set of plans for the police expansion/remodel in hand, City can begin tapping those other sources to help pay for the LE (Law Enforcement) needs.” 

    I too don’t want the city in rented space and never did.  Had the sole goal all along been to get us a new facility on the former site, multiple ideas were already available at demolition and before.  A new city hall (no police or other component) was included in the 2006 Capital budget for around $6 million.  Had demolition not been used as a pretext for delusions of grandeur, all of this discourse would be footnotes to history.  Apologizing or making excuses for that history will not remove it from voter’s minds. 

    Were it not for this now long history, the widespread mistrust of the city’s intentions and of their process would not exist.  Just because I write about it doesn’t mean I’m the only one aware that those who once claimed we needed 70,000 square feet say we can now somehow manage with 22,000 (or 19,000).  I’m also not the only one who knows that $657/SF (not including police remodel) is still an outrageously expensive project, especially when we already own the land.

    As to the prospects of a second passage of a Levy Lid Lift in 4 years, I wouldn’t be too sure about its prospects.  It won’t have the Recreation program to boost it again and voters will have by then faced 4 years of markedly higher property taxes. 

  8. Let’s take a step back. We got these initial numbers at our last meeting with an hour or so to process them in public. Our message was clear that the numbers need to come down. That’s being worked on now.

  9. Like I said at the meeting I attended, we need to get rid of all the extra’s, the Police department should have it own ballot measure. In order for this to pass they need to be realistic in what they choose to put forth. 60 + 1 is going to be a difficult number to get with the recent Sound Transit tax, increase in sales tax, property tax increase and the car tab tax for the down town core. If the ballot put forth is 8 to 10 Million I believe it will pass. If it is higher than that, in my opinion it will fail once again. I appreciate the effort the committee has put forth and with a little effort and sharpening of their pencils I believe it is a reasonable # to hit.

  10. What I find both interesting and disturbing is that both Dustin, a member of the volunteer Citizen Committee and the Everett Herald are aware of there now being three options, not just one. (See NEXTMLT.COM). This morning’s (April 19th) Herald says “The committee has been looking at options between $12.7 million and $16.5 million.”

    The interesting part of that is that at least two other members of that committee know nothing of this expanded menu of options. That is to say the “committee” has not been consulted since their April 6th meeting; the committee as a whole hasn’t been looking at any options! Furthermore, the Thursday gathering is for information gathering and staff presentations. As now advertised, there will not be a Committee conversation that night either.

    Within the bounds of transparency, I’m sure there is some obvious explanation. There is probably also a easy explanation to a couple other questions that has been asked repeatedly and not just by me. Will there finally be some answer of why a city hall built for a future growth to 45 employees needs a nearly 20,000 square foot (SF) building when office industry averages are 200 SF per employee? Council Chambers and meeting rooms shouldn’t more than double the size!

    And will someone explain why our city hall has to cost $650/SF when we already own the land? Yes, $650 is less than $1,000/SF or $850/SF, the numbers associated with the previous preposterous propositions. As someone writing on Dustin’s website noted, $400/SF is a big number, at least in the real world. He also noted that $1.1 million for site work alone for land already owned and previously developed (has infrastructure) is, well, beyond belief.

    Sharp Pencils? Really?

  11. I was at the City Hall Planning Commision Meeting on April 6th. It was at that meeting the review of the first cut cost from ARC. There was a lot of discussion and it was at that meeting the commission let ARC know there needed to be some “pencil sharpening.” This was reinforced by Dustin at the end of the meeting.

    I would think it would take a week or so to come up with a couple of other proposals. I really don’t think there is some nefarious activity going on behind the scenes as was suggested by Mr. French.

    Of course if there is some legitimate evidence of this I’d be the first to listen. Otherwise readers should take that suggestion with some skepticism.

    I’d also like to reinforce that these meetings are all open to the public and encourage folks to attend if they want to see the process first hand.

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