OLYMPIA - Olympia's new City Hall will officially open to the public on March 26, and construction is rapidly coming to a close.
City spokeswoman Cathie Butler said staff members are planning for a grand opening celebration that day, a Saturday, with tours and entertainment. Staff will begin moving in earlier in March.
The four-story, $35.6 million building at 615 Fourth Ave. E. will bring most departments, now spread out in more than a dozen buildings, under one roof. Crews on Wednesday were completing 8-foot-by-8-foot cubicles, the building’s most common interior feature.
Employees, some of whom now have offices, will move into the new cubicles during March, Butler said.
“That will be nice to have everybody in a single building,” she said.
Project Manager Rick Dougherty thinks about 30 offices will dot the building, but they’ll go to top brass.
The cubicle is a “smaller area in a lot of cases, but it’s much more efficient,” he said. There also are 25 conference rooms throughout.
A look through the building Tuesday showed that almost everything is in place but the people. City staff members were scoping out their future offices, and workers were putting on the finishing touches.
Visitors will enter the building’s two-story glassed-in lobby through doors off Fourth Avenue. Their first stop will be a central customer service desk and three computer kiosks. They can take care of common tasks there such as paying parking tickets, Dougherty said. If they can’t be helped there, they’ll be referred to other areas of the building.
The windows, by the way, are covered with an anti-graffiti and etching film that can be removed, sparing the glass.
Also on the first floor is the Olympia City Council Chambers, the new home for the council’s weekly meetings. It’s another high-ceiling room, with wood accents throughout. Dougherty expects to put out 100 chairs, and it has a total capacity of 237. If crowds get big, the chamber opens up to the lobby, where more chairs could be placed and people can watch the action on two televisions.
An area for executive sessions and committee meetings is behind the council room.
Notably, the steps to the dais, where the council sits, uses wood saved from the old Safeway grocery that used to sit on the site.
The Olympia Police Department rounds out the first floor, and a portion of the second floor, with secure access. Unlike the rest of the window-heavy building, the police department only has a thin strip of glass looking into the department, at the request of the department.
“They did not want a lot of windows out to the outside,” Dougherty said.
Up a central staircase, people can find the Community Planning and Development Department, the place to file plans and check on development proposals and permits. A 120 person-capacity conference room on the floor is second in size only to the Council Chambers, Dougherty said.
The third and fourth floors are reserved for city employees, mostly in the cubicle farms. There are so many cubicles that, Dougherty said, a white noise generator will be used to stifle private conversations throughout the floors.
They are secure areas, meaning that guests must have an employee escort to access them, and employees will get there by using pass-cards that unlock doors and elevators.
City Manager Steve Hall, his executive staff and the city’s legal department are on the fourth floor, which has sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and the state Capitol Dome, parts of which are also visible from the other floors.
There are energy-efficient touches throughout the building. Some of the windows open, sparing the cooling system, Dougherty said. Green lights activate when the outside temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees, alerting employees to open the windows and take advantage of Mother Nature’s goodness.
Another green touch is a rooftop garden, accessible to employees. There, rain-hardy plants soak up water.
The place has about 12 percent extra space for expansion, Dougherty said. In addition, the building is designed to be extended over the parking lot in the back, which is solely devoted to police parking.
Customers will have designated parking stalls near the building, and employees are asked to park in nearby parking lots for a fee or at the old City Hall for free. If they choose to bike, the building has indoor and outdoor bike storage and locker rooms for police and nonpolice to shower, along with a workout room.
The current City Hall, at 900 Plum St. S.E., will be retained as the city’s justice center. Olympia Municipal Court and Probation Services will occupy the old building, Butler said, and court hearings will continue to be held there. The city jail also will remain there, though another holding cell is included in the new City Hall.
The City Hall might have already been open if it hadn’t been for an arson on the building’s first floor on July 8. The fire was confined to one room, but resulting smoke and heat damage cost $2 million to fix, most of which was covered by insurance. Joshua A. Stacy of Olympia was sentenced to eight years in prison in October for one count of second-degree arson and two counts of second-degree burglary for the crime.
Dougherty said the building could still be under its $35.6 million budget, though final costs aren’t in. Among the biggest work ahead: networking dozens of new computers and, well, moving.
“There’s a lot of work to unpack boxes,” Butler said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org