New Huntsville City Hall would cost tax payers millions

The new proposed location would move it to where the city parking garage currently is, which is just across the street.

Posted: Nov 8, 2017 6:10 PM
Updated: Nov 8, 2017 7:12 PM

The current building is over fifty years old and the city told WAAY 31 it has many maintenance problems.

The new proposed location would move it to where the city parking garage currently is, which is just across the street.

Right now an architect is creating study to come up with a plan for the new city hall, which includes how many square feet it will be and the different uses it will serve.

Tax payers would be on the hook for 38-40 million dollars for the new building.

That money is already budgeted in the city's capitol plan, which city council approved in September.

The City Administrator told WAAY 31 there is a specific reason why they want to build the new city hall across the street from where it is now and not somewhere else downtown.

"Just based on all the geotech studies and things that have been done; its actually, the engineers say, one of the least expensive places we could build a multi story building here in the downtown area, because of where the bed rock is and the depth and things," said City Administrator John Hamilton.

The next major action on this project could take place in the coming weeks and months.

As soon as the study by the architect is done it will be submitted to the council for approval.

From there the designing phase of the project could begin with construction potentially beginning as soon as a year or two from now.

If city council approves the move the next major decisions to be made will be what to do with the land the current city hall sits on.

Right now, the city is talking with a major developer who wants to build restaurants where city hall currently is with other residential space on top of that, such as condos, or a hotel.

Some people in our community think that's a good idea, but others don't agree.

Thomas Piff lives in Huntsville and he said if city hall is moved across the street the land it's currently on should stay with the city.
"I feel it should be used to expand our iconic, historic park," said Piff.

City council has approved a master plan with studies that show that wouldn't be the best use of the land.

"The remaining parcel that would exist once city hall is moved is best suited, its highest and best use, would be some sort of commercial development," said Hamilton.

A rendering of what the new development could look like shows a building several stories high on the south side of east Big Spring Park, which is the development Piff is concerned about.

"If we sell this property it is a forever sale. We can never un-ring the bell," said Piff.

The city council could decide to lease the land to the developers for an extended period of time, which they've done with other sections of land in the city, or they could decide to sell it outright.

That decision can't be made until decisions on building a new city hall are made.

"There's a good way to go in negotiating a development agreement and bringing it to council for approval," said Hamilton.

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