By: Jeff Barnes
The College Park City Council met with architects Monday to discuss preliminary design plans for a proposed new City Hall.
Architects from Design Collective, Inc., the firm working on the project, presented the council with images of architectural techniques from around the world to inspire their design.
"We really think this is going to be a transformational project for the entire community," said Scott Vieth, an architect and design principal at the firm.
The new City Hall will be part of the planned revitalization of the entire block at the intersection of Knox Road and Route 1.
In March, the city purchased two properties located on the proposed redevelopment site, which is currently occupied by Shanghai Cafe and Subway, for $1.6 million. The leases on the other sites, currently occupied by Smoothie King and Hair Cuttery, are due to expire at the end of next year.
Wojahn said the current site's demolition and construction could begin in early 2020.
In addition to a new town headquarters, the redevelopment could include an outdoor gathering space, a new administrative office building for the University of Maryland and ground-level retail.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said a new City Hall is needed "pretty badly," partially due to space constraints that make increasing staffing to serve the growing city population a "significant challenge."
City employees are currently scattered along Route 1 following the relocation of some staff from the site of proposed Calvert Road child care center, Wojahn added.
Officials pointed to two designs in particular —The Yale School of Management in Connecticut and the Westland Town Hall in the Netherlands — as possible inspirations for the new design due to their open layout and modern look.
Wojahn said the idea is to create an active and inviting town square for the community.
The design of the outdoor plaza will be an integral part of that plan, officials said, and could serve as a location for concerts and other events. District 3 Councilman John Rigg said Route 1 is currently the focus on development in College Park, and that the city lacks a great outdoor space to attract the community.
"I care deeply about the whole project, but maybe the thing that I care most about is getting that plaza right," Rigg said.
District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan said that unlike other recent commercial development in the city, the council's goal for the new design is not to "maximize density" and profits, but rather to create "inviting and an inspiring space that's interactive."
The design firm will hold a similar visioning meeting with the community at City Hall on Sept. 27 to gather input for the design.
Afterward, planners will report community feedback to the council and begin work on developing a design proposal.
Knowing much of the new development in the city includes this university's signature red brick, Brennan said his initial "hard, knee-jerk reaction" was for the design to stay in line with the city's traditional style. He followed up, however, with the intention to move past this.
"I think that the new City Hall needs to inspire and be looking forward to the future of our city and not necessarily trying to repeat something that already exists," Brennan said.
Although Wojahn said the total cost of the development has yet to be determined, earlier estimates suggest the project could cost as much as $12.5 million. Once a design is finalized, Wojahn said, they will be able to gather a total cost and determine how much this university will contribute to the project.
"Because we're going to share this space with the University of Maryland, there will be a shared burden in terms of redevelopment of the site," he said.
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