SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The repairs to the lightning-damaged Saratoga Springs City Hall will last into the spring of 2020, based on a new schedule from the city Department of Public Works.
That's longer than was originally anticipated, but the department is using the building's closure as a chance to extensively update the building's plumbing, heating and other internal systems. The damage happened following an August 2018 lightning strike. The cost is currently estimated at about $10 million, some of which will be covered by an insurance settlement.
The city's Design Review Commission on Wednesday reviewed the renovation plans for the historic building at Broadway and Lake Avenue, which dates from about 1871. It unanimously approved the design for the building interior, except for some details of the vestibule design and design details of the third-floor music hall, to be reviewed later.
Commission members said they were generally pleased and impressed with the city's efforts to preserve historic aspects of the building's interior.
City Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco said the restoration work will be done in two phases, with the music hall part of the second phase of the project, which will not be finished until next April.
"We'd like to finish the basement and the first floor and get back into City Hall ... probably by the end of the year, that's the plan, and then maybe in April finish the second floor and the music hall," Scirocco told the commission. "So the music hall will get done, but it's kind of on the back burner and there's a lot of time to get the design work done."
Most of the city's administrative offices will be on the basement and first floors, which will be in the first phase of work. Human resources, city attorney and public safety commissioner offices will go on the second floor, but have spaces at the Recreation Center where they can remain until spring, Public Works Department business manager Michael Veitch said.
While city employees want to get back to City Hall, Veitch said a driving force is also to get city government out of the Recreation Center, where much of city government is being run from what is normally a gymnasium.
"That's the main urgency of the project, that we are keeping the community out of the gym and kids are unable to have recreational tournaments," Veitch said.
The work is being prepared for a bid opening in June, while a separate asbestos removal project continues.
Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, the city released renderings including a view of the main hallway, entrance vestibule, and third-floor music hall, along with renderings of the new City Court hearing room and elevator.
“The concept was to preserve historical elements as part of the project and to showcase public areas so that everyone in our community can enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the building,” Scirocco said. “At the same time it is important to update City Hall into a functional municipal building, with fifty years of desperately required building improvements and to plan for fifty years into the future.”
Following a lightning strike on August 17, which resulted in some fire and significant water damage to the south side of the building, the City Council moved city government functions to the city Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue, where they continue.
Scirocco said that in consideration of a 2013 state mandate to provide additional court facilities, the council decided it was appropriate to renovate the entire building to make room for the courts needs. Clark Patterson Lee, an engineering and architecture firm in Albany, has been working on the design, which calls for the court system using almost the entire second floor.
The work includes a new heating and cooling system, court offices, ADA-compliant elevator, and additional public meeting spaces, along with information technology and security enhancements. Electrical, plumbing, heating, and sound attenuation improvements are also planned, but changes to the building's Italian Renaissance Victorian exterior will be minimal.
Veitch said the Public Works Department will continue to work with the Design Review Commission and groups like the Saratoga Preservation Foundation to refine the interior designs. While office interiors will be modernized, the city's goal is to keep the public spaces with their past historical feel, Veitch said.