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Council hears update on Historic City Hall renovation 

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A $16.5 million renovation now underway aims to restore architectural features inside and outside of Springfield's Historic City Hall. 

City Council members in yesterday’s luncheon heard an update on the restoration of the 133-year-old building, formerly a United States customhouse and post office. 

Representing J.E. Dunn Construction Group Inc., David Atkisson explained the construction manager at risk model in place for the project, noting the goal is to align the project’s scope and budget. 

“It’s always a challenge on projects,” he said. “It’s been a challenge on this project with escalating costs over the last few years. It’s certainly been hard to keep up with.” 

Atkisson said the CMAR model helps. 

“The only time that’s harder than now to align scope and budget is after design is complete, and so being on board early to help with that now is an advantage,” he said. “We’ve been looking at a lot of alternates, options, cost breakouts to understand really where the dollars in the scope of the project go.” 

That means city staff and the design team are well informed as they make decisions, he added. 

“The purpose of all of this is to provide certainty of outcome for the city,” Atkisson said. “The last thing you want is a competed design that’s been bid out and that’s over budget or has some major scheduling challenges once it’s too late. But with the team assembled early, we can help with that, to provide that certainty.” 

The estimated cost of the project includes $10.5 million in approved funding and $6 million more in proposed funding. 

City Architect Jennifer Swan said council already OK’d a mix of $4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, $6 million in level property tax bond funds and $432,000 in level property tax pay-as-you-go funding. 

The additional $6 million would comprise $4.5 million in general fund carryover, $1 million in level property tax contingency funds and $500,000 in additional ARPA funds. 

Swan outlined critical project markers, including winterization, completed in January. Hazardous material abatement is expected to be completed before the end of winter. This summer, construction documents are scheduled to be completed, a guaranteed maximum price will be established, and construction will commence, according to the schedule. 

The building is scheduled to be occupied in the first quarter of 2026, and plans say it will house the mayor’s and city clerk’s offices, purchasing and finance departments, and council meeting rooms and chambers. 

Steven Telscher, senior project manager with architectural firm Sapp Design Associates Architects Inc., identified four preservation zones throughout the building. They range from Zone 1, which encompasses historical features that will be retained or rehabilitated to a high level, to Zone 4, which includes areas of the building where previous alteration has happened and nearly all historical materials are lost. 

In the middle of those are elements that may be character defining and should be retained or preserved, but with more flexibility to accommodate new use, modern elements or equipment, as well as elements that have been altered or where historical material is partly lost. 

Council chambers, a former courtroom in the building, retains some of the original features of the building, Telscher noted, including the paneling. 

“That stuff’s about as precious as it gets in this building,” he said. “It has been stained, or we say it has been pickled; we want to try to strip that and get it back to where it was in its original form.” 

That’s going to be a difficult job, according to Telscher. 

“This is delicate,” he said. “This is like surgery – getting it cleaned up, fixing the trim, fixing the scratches. It’s not going to be real heavy-handed, so it’s not going to look perfect when it’s done. You’re going to see some of those dents and some of those things that you get from age – you’re going to still see it there, which is what I think is great.” 

Along with the historical preservation goal, the building will be accessible to people with handicaps and will aim for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification. 

Telscher said the latter will be hard to achieve, in part because the project aims mainly to retain the historic envelope of the building. LEED Silver requires 50+ points out of a possible 110 on the scoring rubric, and two categories – energy and atmosphere, and location and transportation – offer limited opportunities and account for 56 possible points. The current scorecard shows a possible 41 points, he said. 

Another challenge is the plaster walls of the building, which limit the options for getting basic power and data in rooms without damaging them, he said. 

A new east entrance, on the parking lot side of the building, is planned, as are a new fire stairwell and an elevator capable of accommodating a medical gurney. 

A 1973 council vote placed the building on the Springfield Historic Register, and in 1979 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been in place since 1891. 

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