City of Orange issues press release on future of City Hall
Since 2010, the City has been exploring varied options on addressing the current needs and future needs for the City Hall Campus. The City Hall Campus houses the Offices of the City Manager, City Secretary, Finance (which includes payments and collections), Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), and Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
The challenges facing the City are lack of available space in City Hall, current ADA conditions, failing electrical and plumbing, asbestos abatement, and accessibility. There are also the desires to have better access for the public to second floor personnel (add an elevator), offer drive thru capabilities, and make the CVB and EDC more accessible and visual to the visitors and investors coming to the City.
The City considered many alternatives that included the current City Hall, new construction, existing vacant buildings, and sharing building space with other tenants. Each option presented its own challenges of costs, accessibility, and functionality.
City Hall is a unique challenge because of its rich history, location, and needs. In the end, the City’s needs and the public’s accessibility have outgrown what was once a home to the Brown family. The City would have to vacate the building, relocate walls, remove dry wall to update and upgrade electrical and plumbing, add an elevator, and meet ADA requirements. In addition, the City would have to add onto City Hall or construct an annex to properly office staff.
The City additionally reviewed the inventory of vacant buildings from Front Street to Park Street and Green Avenue to Simmons Drive. Each building holding potential was then given a site visit. Staff analyzed the pros and cons of each site along with the cost for repairs and upgrades. The City even looked at occupying space with a joint occupant. Each property was brought to Council for consideration.
By happenstance, the City received a call from First Financial Bank (FFB) asking the City’s EDC to be aware of its future plans of constructing a new building on a lot just north of its current location. Being a bank, FFB meets many of the needs that the City is considering. It has drive thru lanes, is one story, accessible from front and rear, has a safe, teller windows for collection, and administrative offices. This location is a centralized location that will allow the CVB and the EDC to have a strong presence along a street that has a high traffic count. This location also has sectioned and secured areas for administrative offices.
In establishing a purchase price, FFB had an independent appraisal of $4.7 million and the City received its own independent appraisal of $2.4 million. The City and FFB negotiated a sale price of $2.0 million with a donation of $2.7 million difference from their appraisal. FFB will upon close of the sale, lease back from the City the building for $10,000.00 per month until the move into their newly constructed offices.
It is the desire of the City to preserve the current City Hall and the City is open to looking at any and all options available to accomplish this preservation. Some options are for the City to lease portions of the building or create an EDC incubator to assist small or new businesses to get up and running. The City is committed to preserving City Hall and will consider options that will add synergy that has been created with the Stark Foundation, Lamar State College-Orange, the downtown business district, and the downtown Historical District.
After years of working through several options, FFB location is considered the best option available at this time. Considering the costs of remodel to City Hall and costs of new construction along with land acquisition, the FFB property will best serve the citizens of Orange as well as visitors and travelers to our community.