Tuesday: Atherton interviews architect finalists


Atherton will soon choose between two finalists bidding to design the town's new civic center, and is scheduled to sign an agreement with the architects, as well as with the group that is raising funds to pay for much of the project, in February.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, the Atherton City Council will meet with its Civic Center Advisory Committee at 12:30 p.m. in the council chambers, 94 Ashfield Road, to interview representative of the two civic center design finalists, WRNS Studio and Swatt Miers.

The Civic Center Advisory Committee is then scheduled to meet on Feb. 2 to make its final recommendation to the council.

In the meantime, according to a report from City Manager George Rodericks, the town will meet with Atherton Now, the organization that has taken on the task of raising most of the money to pay for the new civic center.

The group will need to raise at least $20 million to pay for the project envisioned in a master plan approved by the town in March 2014. Total cost of the project outlined in the master plan is estimated at close to $31.8 million.

The plan includes a 25,500-square-foot, two-story administration and police building; a 9,000-square-foot library; 37,000 square feet for parking; and a large open-space town green. If the town wants extras, such as two options that have been mentioned -- an underground parking garage or a complex that produces its own energy -- even more money must be raised.

The town has $9.8 million to pay for the library and $2.2 million that has been set aside for the building department quarters, but town officials say the rest of the project will be paid for with donated money, in accordance with the terms of a 2012 ballot measure that approved the building of the new town offices.

If Atherton Now does not have money in hand to pay for the design phase of the project, Mr. Rodericks said in his report, "staff will recommend a phased approach for design services and negotiate accordingly."

He estimates the project design will cost between $2.3 million and $3.2 million, with donations needed to cover at least 66 percent of that cost, or $1.5 million to $2.1 million. The remaining 34 percent of the design cost can come from the library and building funds, Mr. Rodericks reports, because they account for 34 percent of the cost of the project.

Swatt Miers is headquartered in Emeryville. The firm's proposal says that George Miers, one of the firm's principals, would manage the project for the firm. Mr. Miers has experience designing libraries, police facilities and administration facilities. The firm's proposal says it would also use Lynn Simon of Thornton/Tomasetti Engineering as a "sustainability consultant."

Swatt Miers has designed the Walnut Creek Civic Center; the Pinole City Hall; police facilities in Lodi, Antioch and Livermore; and libraries in Livermore and San Carlos.

In its proposal the firm suggests a number of changes to the existing master plan, many of them, it says, made necessary by the existence of a 3-foot-diameter water main that runs through the town's property. The firm suggests putting police and administrative offices in separate buildings, putting some buildings close to the train tracks to shield the civic center's outdoor spaces from noise, and making the entry to the civic center from Fair Oaks Avenue more inviting

WRNS Studio is headquartered in San Francisco. The firm would have partner Pauline Souza lead its design team. Ms. Souza has experience designing schools, corporate campuses and community centers, many of them with energy-efficiency certification.

The firm was responsible for the Sacred Heart School master plan and library (which produces all its own energy) and the current Woodside Elementary School construction project, a water resource center in Watsonville, and a tribal community center in Brooks, California.

The firm also suggests some changes in the master plan, including adding an underground parking structure, reducing the size and bulk of the administration building so it fits in better with the scale of the neighborhood, reworking the entry off Fair Oaks and improving the pedestrian access.

More information on the civic center project is available on the town's website.

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Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 26, 2015 at 1:31 pm

"He estimates the project design will cost between $2.3 million and $3.2 million, with donations needed to cover at least 66 percent of that cost, or $1.5 million to $2.1 million."

Donations for Architects' fees? Whose pipe dream are we living in? I think we can all expect this project to fester for another five years at least.....

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