Atherton council OKs preliminary design for civic center

Council agrees on an assumed fundraising target of $25 million.

A unanimous Atherton City Council on Wednesday (May 18) approved a 198-page schematic design for a new civic center and authorized the city manager to enter into a contract with schematic-design creator WRNS Studio.

The council also agreed to assume that the fundraising target for the civic center would be $25 million. That would not include the cost of building a new public library, which has its own funding already in place.

A figure of $25 million "sounds reasonable," advisory committee member and former mayor Didi Fisher said.

The council's action was intended to approve "the look and feel" of the civic center's exterior design and give direction to the Civic Center Advisory Committee, Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said.

A finished design is four to six months away, said City Engineer Mary Grace Houlihan. The council will get monthly updates, including a visit by the project architect, she said.

Here is a link to the schematic design summary, a PDF document that may take a minute or so to load.

After a long discussion on various aspects of the project, the council agreed with a suggestion by City Manager George Rodericks to aim for a civic center floor area to match the 18,681 square feet in use today.

The floor area in the schematic design is 20,340 square feet, Mr. Rodericks said. A place where where floor area could be reduced is the council chambers, currently designed to seat up to 80 people, a figure that council members agreed was too high.

To accommodate larger turnouts, council members suggested an overflow room connected to the council chambers. One possibility mentioned: an area in the new public library designed with the flexibility to clear the floor of bookshelves to accommodate rows of chairs.

In another cost-saving measure, the council agreed on the concept of using the police department, rather than the council chambers, for an emergency operations center. The police department will have a structure with greater resistance to collapse in an earthquake, and the cost of giving that extra protection to the council chambers would be avoided.

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