By Jean Cole
The designers of Athens’ new City Hall tried to create a functional building that blended the grace of classical architecture and the fortitude to last 100 years.
Plans for the $2.2 million City Hall building were unveiled Friday during a City Council special work session. The 15,793-square-foot building will be located on the same site as the former city hall, at the corner of Hobbs and Marion streets.
Construction will begin in the next couple of weeks with the pouring of the concrete footings. Work should be finished within the next two years, officials said.
Representatives of Krebs Architecture and Engineering of Birmingham reviewed the plans with council members and the public during the work session. They showed slides of similar Grecian and American architectural styles, including City Hall’s next-door neighbor — First United Methodist Church — and the Limestone County Courthouse.
The plans call for a Greek Revival-style, one-story, light-brick building with tall paned windows and two separate cornices (attics) that create the illusion of two stories in the front and back of the building. The front of the building, which will face Hobbs Street, will have an entry portico with classical entablature supported by four columns with Ionic capitals and steps leading to it from three sides. In keeping with Greek Revival style, the main door will have an elaborate door surround. A wheelchair access ramp will be located immediately to the side of the entry.
The new City Hall will house the offices of the mayor, technology, finance, human resources and the fire department administration, support staff, an event kitchen and break room, a conference room, City Council chambers, a council pre-meeting room and a council work room. The design also includes a storm-safe room and an additional office for the future. The building can be expanded, if needed.
One of the plan’s most striking features is its interior courtyard — about the size of the municipal courtroom at the Athens Police Department — were there will be brick pavers, container plants and tables. Employees and members of the public will be able to eat lunch or rest there. The courtyard is designed to be functional in that it allows access to the council chambers through the courtyard and it also allows some offices to have windows they would not otherwise have.
One feature of the council chambers is that the public will be able to access the space at night for meetings while the rest of the City Hall offices are closed.
Old council chambers
Although officials initially planned to retain the old council chambers, they later determined that was unworkable and the entire building was razed this spring. City employees are using offices at the Athens Utilities building on Wilkinson Street until the new City Hall is built.
The City Council borrowed $2.2 million in 2009 to build the new City Hall. They have already spent about $100,000 on demolition and site preparation. They plan to use city workers, when available, and prison laborers on the project in order to afford a better building, Mayor Ronnie Marks said.