Slices of ceiling tile, pried loose for inspection, litter the hallways. Random pieces of obsolete furniture and office equipment stubbornly hold their spaces. Old signs cling to the walls, pointing this direction and that to various offices. Cell doors, with paint peeling, yawn open in the old jail space on the top floor.
It’s all a bit eerie in its emptiness. Were someone to film a zombie apocalypse movie in Huntsville, the City Hall Annex would be a perfect soundstage.
It can’t be one of those YouTube’able implosions to elicit oohs and aahs.”
The 52-year-old, five-story (plus a basement that once housed a fire hall) building, with its 45,218 square feet of space, sits in disuse, soon to be leveled.
And, before you can ask, no, it can’t be one of those YouTube’able implosions to elicit oohs and aahs. Instead, it’s a matter of T’s and I’s, all properly crossed and dotted. It’s a long, painstaking process, all to eliminate any collateral damage to adjacent structures.
“With everything staying in operation (in nearby buildings), those demolitions are hairy and in a downtown setting it’s going to be tight,” said Ricky Wilkinson, General Service Director. “Certainly we’ll be making sure the contractor is doing what it’s supposed to be doing with as little disruption as possible.”
The demolition of the building is step one in a significant part of the BIG Picture Downtown Master Plan. Eventually, the eight-story City Hall administration building will be taken down, as well as the aging parking garage on Fountain Avenue.
A new multi-story City Hall will be erected on the spot of the parking garage. The space on which the annex and tower sit may become a development site for a multi-use property, designed to encourage more residential and retail growth downtown and to further enhance the potential of Big Spring Park as a community gathering place.
- The annex is part of a 52-year-old complex, with 52-year-old infrastructure, with mechanical pieces – heat and air system, generators, elevators – which fit in that “throwing good money after bad” category should they begin to fail.
- City workers are scattered about the city in other buildings, some of which the City is leasing, and a new City Hall will bring more people under one roof, providing better efficiency of service.
The demolition will take place in two stages.
- A three-month “abatement” process in which materials inside the building are removed, including asbestos, during which little of the work will be visible to the public.
- A three-month demolition of the structure itself.
- At the April 26 City Council meeting, Council Members will be asked to approve a $698,733 contract with Gulf Services Contracting, Inc., that will put things into motion by May, with the demo complete in November.
- There is no timeline on the demolition of the administration building.
- Construction on the new City Hall is expected to begin in 2019.
- For multiple reasons, the marble on the façade can’t be recycled. It’s not cost-effective nor reusable. Porous as this particular mineral is, it would serve little purpose in future construction and fragile as it’s proven to be, salvaging large slabs all in one piece would be unlikely.
- Big Spring Park’s “footprint” will not be encroached upon by the redevelopment. The Downtown Master Plan focuses on enhancing the area around the park, to create amenities that attract even more residents to it.
- There is a magnolia garden adjacent to the building on Fountain Circle, with some of the trees planted in memory of deceased City employees or their family. Green Team and other City officials are reaching a solution for replanting the trees at John Hunt Park or other City property.