Charlottesville officials are considering consolidating city administration offices, the police department and the school division into a new 200,000-square-foot administrative office complex. City Manager Tarron Richardson declined Thursday to speculate what the proposed center could cost until a design and feasibility study on improving the city’s current facilities is done.
Earlier this year, Richardson said he plans to include funding for the study in the city’s Capital Improvement Program. At a Thursday work session on the plan, city staff discussed a City Center complex that would house city administration, the police department, Charlottesville City Schools administration and 400 parking spaces. Richardson presented a general overview of the proposed center, which could also include retail space and affordable housing, at the work session.
The city and school division administration has 165,845 square feet of space across four locations. Most of it is at City Hall at 605 E. Main St. The main structure was constructed in 1925 and expanded in 1967. The police department is housed in a connected building at 606 E. Market St. constructed in 1966, and other city administration offices are in the adjacent City Hall annex, built in 1992.
The city school division is housed at a building near Walker Upper Elementary School and an annex at Charlottesville High School.
Interim Deputy City Manager Paul Oberderfer said the existing facilities are “inadequate” and have “outlived their life.”
Officials don’t have a cost for the proposal, but Oberdorfer said a modern facility would reduce maintenance costs to the tune of $983,572 a year.
Design work could take a year, and construction may not begin until late 2022 or early 2023, Richardson said.
Richardson said the city hasn’t determined where the complex might be located, but it needs to be accessible by public transit.
“I want to make sure that it is in a place that is accessible to all residents,” he said.
City Hall was assessed this year at $18 million, but it would likely sell for significantly more thanks to its location on the Downtown Mall.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker told city staff members that she would want information about how such a project could affect investment in education and affordable housing, plus the impact of selling the existing properties to high-end businesses.
The council also discussed the ongoing CIP development.
As part of the fiscal year 2020 budget, the spending plan projects capital expenditures for the next five years. The projected expenditures for fiscal 2021 are $29.6 million, about $6 million less than the current budget.
Departments were given until Aug. 30, just under two months from the start of the current fiscal year, to submit CIP requests for FY2021.
In September, Richardson will meet with departments, and October will be spent working with staff to develop a proposal.
While the plan will include funding for previously adopted affordable housing and school projects, officials have only formally committed to two new projects — a share of a new court building and a parking structure.
As part of an agreement with Albemarle County, the city will contribute $6.9 million to a downtown courts facility. The county issued a request for proposals earlier this month, with expected completion for different parts in 2023 and 2025.
The city’s contribution is split over fiscal years 2021 and 2022.
The total project is expected to cost between $43 million and $45 million.
The project will create a multi-story addition to the existing Levy Opera House, which is jointly owned by the city and county. The building will accommodate four sets of courts: one for the city, two county general district courts and a shell space for future courts operations. This addition will also house the offices for both the county and city clerks of court.
As part of an agreement paving the way for the facility, Albemarle will sell its share of the jointly owned Seventh and Market lot to Charlottesville. In turn, the city will build a parking structure on the site and provide 90 county-designated parking spots on the ground level.
That parking structure will cost $10 million. The CIP includes $4.9 million for fiscal 2021 and $5.1 million for fiscal 2022.
The council will discuss the preliminary plan at a Nov. 14 meeting.
The final proposal will come before City Council on March 2 as part of the proposed FY2021 budget.