by TaLeiza Calloway
Remodeling the former Kennedy Elementary School for a future government/community center is no longer an option. St. Joseph City Council members unanimously voted to remove the option from future discussions Nov. 1.
A cost analysis showed the preliminary construction cost to remodel Kennedy could be about $9.2 million for a 30,000 square-foot building. About $3 million of this projection is land costs.
The building is currently occupied by Little Saints Academy and Headstart. It’s about 7,000 more square feet than the roughly 22,000 square feet planned initially for a new government/community center. In addition to the cost of remodeling, the age and the shape of the building were deterring factors, architectural officials said.
The cost to remodel the existing city hall is estimated to cost $3.6 million; to construct a new building on site would be about $4.3 million; and to construct a new building off-site would be about $5 million, said Murray Mack of Hagemeister Mack Architects.
“One thing you should recognize is when we look at the square footage of this building is how much square footage do we end up with because of the odd shape (of Kennedy),” Mack said.
There are benefits and challenges to staying on site and moving to another location. Building on-site keeps the connection to the city’s downtown while moving off-site could provide more parking options. One perk of the former Kennedy site was its gymnasium and cafeteria. However, the kitchen would need to be upgraded.
Council members also have to consider the $200,000 the city bonded for improvements to the HVAC and roofing system at city hall. Staff did not want to authorize that work if the council decides to expand city hall. The money must be spent by the end of 2013.
St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz wanted to make sure whatever option is chosen, plans are made with attention to the future.
“Our goal is to accommodate growth,” Schultz said. ” I just don’t want to get into the same boat we’re in now.”
Schultz also reminded officials the idea of keeping a government/community center downtown increases foot traffic in this area. With consideration to the growing aging population, Frank thought about accessibility to the center if it was built somewhere other than downtown.
City council members looked at schematic drawings for each scenario but no decision was made. Officials met Thursday Nov. 8 to narrow options, after the St. Joseph Newsleader went to press. The results will be reported in the upcoming edition.