Courtenay City Hall will get a facelift.
Councillors heard plans for external improvements to the building at 830 Cliffe Ave. Monday during their committee of the whole meeting and expressed support for staff to go ahead with plans to refresh City Hall.
The old City Hall was destroyed by fire in 1995, and the city relocated next door to the current building, first renting and then buying the facility.
The thought at the time was that this building would be used temporarily until a new hall was built, according to city administrator Sandy Gray.
Since purchasing the building — once a garage and service station — the city has undertaken a number of internal renovations, but few external improvements have been made since 1996, and there are still a number of areas, particularly around windows and doors, that remain in an unfinished state, noted Gray.
“In looking ahead, the current structure should be able to meet our needs for another 10 years, provided it is well maintained and various improvements are made along the way,” he stated in his report to council.
In 2010, staff started to investigate painting the exterior of the building, and as this investigation went on, it became apparent that the building envelope was in poor condition, explained Gray.
“The stucco in particular was failing, and water was likely seeping into the wall system,” he wrote. “In a number of internal places, the smell of mildew and mould is obvious, and the only way to access and address the apparent problems is to completely remove the exterior stucco material.”
The city engaged architect Martin Hagarty to provide advice on what is required to address a number of problems and to suggest ways to improve the appearance and aesthetics of the building and to extend its life.
“It was always the intent that this would be a temporary building,” said Gray. “Here we are 15 years later, and … I know council doesn’t have much interest in nor are we looking at making any significant change to the location of the building; we’re going to be here for the next 10 years. Martin and his firm was engaged to give us some professional advice on what we could do in addressing some exterior problems we were having, as well as to come up with some creative ideas as to how we could put a better face on the building, so to speak.”
Because of the history of the building and seismic issues, the architects were asked not to change the building and not to make any additions, explained Hagarty.
Hagarty’s plans call for wrapping galvanized steel cladding around the stair towers at each end of the building, taking the window by the council chambers and enlarging it to make it a prominent feature, and for building a screen over the entrance.
He proposes using cedar cladding, making the screen out of Douglas fir and wrapping the bottom of the building in fieldstone.
Hagarty pointed out that the city has a history of using wood in its public buildings.
“The city has a history of redeveloping older buildings and making them really nice,” he added.
Hagarty felt this City Hall would follow Courtenay’s civic tradition and would complement downtown buildings like the Courtenay library, the Comox Valley Art Gallery and the Sid Williams Theatre.
“We thought the Sid Williams Theatre was maybe a little too modern and maybe the Native Sons Hall was too woody, and we thought this was a good combination of wood, stone and steel cladding on the stairwells,” he said.
Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard liked that as a civic building, it complements the architectural elements of the Sid Williams Theatre and the Comox Valley Art Gallery.
Coun. Murray Presley was a bit concerned about “putting good money into bad,” but he admitted he has always been a little bit ashamed of City Hall.
“It’s a stucco building that’s ugly at the best of times,” he said. “This dresses it up and makes it a West Coat building we can be proud of. I think it’s something we should be doing.”
Now that council has agreed to the concept, city staff will develop a budget, which will probably be about $500,000, explained Gray.
Tillie Manthey, the city’s director of financial services, has confirmed the city has about $430,000 in a reserve fund for City Hall renovations.