By Keysha Drexel
A record crowd gathered at the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week to get the first look at plans for a new 57,000-square-foot city hall complex.
Vestavia Hills Mayor Alberto “Butch” Zaragoza and City Manager Jeff Downes unveiled the first artist’s renderings of the new city hall at the Feb. 11 luncheon, which was sold out despite the threat of a winter storm.
Zaragoza said a new city hall complex is long overdue for the growing city.
“Vestavia Hills is no longer a small city,” he said. “We have a city hall with two or three people in one office. The parking is atrocious.”
The current city hall was built in the 1950s and doesn’t meet the needs of the police or fire administration, Zaragoza said. The current building is about 35,000 square feet, and the city needs much more space than that.
The new city hall complex will be built on the former sites of Food World and Joe’s Ranch House, the mayor announced in November.
The city bought the Food World property for $1.15 million and spent $825,000 on the Joe’s Ranch House site.
The Vestavia Hills City Council recently authorized the city to issue up to $20 million in general warrants, or bonds, for the new city hall.
The city will issue one warrant for $10 million. However, depending on the cost of the facility, it has the option to issue another warrant for an additional $10 million, Downes said.
The city has contracted Williams Blackstock Architects out of Birmingham to design the new city hall complex, and B.L. Harbert will serve as the construction manager for the project, Zaragoza said.
The city hall complex will be made up of two buildings, the mayor said. One will be about 29,000 square feet and house the administration offices, including the city clerk’s office, council chambers, a room for council work sessions, the IT and fire departments and administrative offices for the fire department. The building will serve as the main city hall building, Zaragoza said.
The second building of about 28,000 square feet will house the city’s court offices, magistrate’s office and police department.
The complex will also have plenty of green space and an amphitheater where the city could host events like Holiday in the Hills and I Love America Day, Zaragoza said.
“I think it will give us that town square feel that we wanted and will be a welcoming place for our citizens,” he said.
Zaragoza said the city hopes to start the demolition process in March and begin construction on the new city hall complex by mid-May.
“We are working on a very aggressive timetable and hope to be moved into the new city hall by August 2014,” he said.
Zaragoza said he hopes the new city hall will spur more improvement along the U.S. 31 corridor in Vestavia Hills.
“I hope this new municipal building will be the starting point for the redevelopment along U.S. 31,” he said.