Bids to restore the historic character of Eau Claire’s City Hall while also transforming it into a modern office building came in at about $4 million and are poised for approval this week.
Pending a vote at Tuesday afternoon’s City Council meeting, contractors could then begin the interior renovations, which is the final part of an effort to bring back the stained glass ceilings, wood floors and architectural grandeur of the building.
“This contract is the last remaining contract,” city engineer David Solberg said, adding that last year’s work on the building focused on its roof and exterior.
All told, the bids came in about $100,000 under budget, he said, but that might not be the final number when the work is done. The city does have estimates in place for some of the smaller jobs — including marble and wood flooring restoration, plaster work and landscaping — in the project package because further bidding is needed to find a contractor for them.
Depending on how those turn out, Solberg said the $100,000 would be used as a contingency if those bids come in higher than anticipated.
The interior renovations are expected to take almost a year, and the work has been split into 29 separate jobs.
When looking at the list of contractors who bid on the renovation project, Solberg said more than 80 percent are located in the Chippewa Valley.
The biggest contract is for extensively rewiring the building, which Eau Claire company B&B Electric bid $815,826 to do. The second largest is for general demolition and construction work on the building’s interior, which Eau Claire contractor Market & Johnson bid $664,600 on. Replacing the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system will cost $589,000, based on the bid from Winona Controls.
Part of the remodeling will involve stripping away drop-ceilings and other modifications made in previous decades that hid some of the classical architecture in the building.
Other work will improve accessibility for people with disabilities. New, wider doors will be added to the building’s front entrance off South Farwell Street so it meets requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A rear entrance off the building’s parking lot will be modified and a ramp added to make it ADA-compatible as well.
In addition to remodeling 33,000 square feet inside City Hall, the $4 million includes work that will turn part of Fire Station No. 2’s lower level into the city’s new elections offices.
During City Hall’s renovation, about 90 employees who worked there have been relocated to the former W.L. Gore/3M building, 2020 Prairie Lane.
The city expects to move back into City Hall by next Labor Day.
Since employees moved out of City Hall in July, pictures and other relics have been removed from the building.
The building also is being tested for asbestos so it could properly be handled before major renovations begin. Ceiling tiles also were taken out to let contractors get a better look at the work that lies ahead of them.
“The feedback we got is this is more of an amazing opportunity to restore a couple historic buildings than something to be scared of,” Solberg said.
Eau Claire’s current City Hall is composed of a Carnegie Library built in 1903 and a City Hall from 1917 that were joined by a connecting building in 1978.
These items also are on the City Council’s agenda for this week:
• Monday night’s council agenda is mostly items that were originally scheduled for the Aug. 27 meeting that was canceled due to a brief bout of severe weather. The council will discuss the potential of providing free bus fare to children, get an update on bringing a historic train locomotive back to the Chippewa Valley and meet in closed session to discuss the city manager’s contract.
• The City Council will decide Tuesday if a downtown art gallery or a restaurant used to teach culinary students at a local college should get a liquor license. Chippewa Valley Technical College and 200 Main Art and Wine have both applied for the alcohol license that’s available since Tailgates Sports Bar and Grill closed last fall.
• The Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association plans to raise funds to pay for improvements to Boyd Park, which the city would install using its employees. Among those upgrades are new playground equipment, benches and a community garden, according to an agreement scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.
• The Eau Claire YMCA, which is buying the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center, 3456 Craig Road, is signing a lease to use nearby city-owned parking lots. A decadelong agreement would have the YMCA pay $6,000 annually for nonexclusive use of the lots. The price would increase in subsequent years, based on renewals allowed by the lease.
Eau Claire City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday and 4 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom at the county courthouse, 721 Oxford Ave.
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