After Atherton's City Council asked for the design of its new civic center to be cut by 1,600 square feet and the budget by $1.8 million, architects WRNS Studio and town staff responded by shrinking the buildings by 3,200 square feet, the council learned July 20.
City Engineer Mary Grace Houlihan said the size reduction should also shave between $2 million and $2.5 million from the cost of the complex, which will include a library, administrative offices, police headquarters and council chambers that double as an emergency operations center.
The reduction in size, from the 20,340-square-foot total that had been in the approved schematic design, also saved a large oak tree that had been slated for removal.
Ms. Houlihan said she and the architects have been meeting with town employees "to understand how their jobs work." The plan clusters workspaces for people who work together and consolidates as many functions as possible, but builds in flexibility for future growth, she said.
The largest office in the plan is that of the city manager at 227 square feet, with that of the police chief close behind at 218 square feet. The seating capacity of the council chambers has been reduced from 80 seats to 40, although Ms. Houlihan said more chairs might be squeezed in.
The council chambers will double as an emergency operations center because that option proved less expensive than trying to incorporate an emergency operations center into the police department.
By September, consultants should have a budget for the new design to present to the council, Ms. Houlihan said.
The design team is also working on figuring out how the town will continue to operate when construction begins. One possibility, she said, is that the police department could continue to use its offices while administration, planning and library activities move into the Gilmore House and the main house in Holbrook-Palmer Park. The town is also exploring borrowing or buying bookmobiles.
"We have a lot of things still to work out," Ms. Houlihan said.
One of the things that is yet to be worked out is how the project will be paid for. In its monthly report to the council, dated July 1, Atherton Now, the nonprofit working to raise $25 million to pay for much of the project, said it has raised $5.6 million from 50 donors.
Council members have said they will give Atherton Now until the end of the year to come up with the money.
If the donations do not materialize, the town will have to return to the voters to find a way around the 2012 measure that requires the town to build the civic center primarily with private donations. The measure also allows using building fees or grants, but not general fund or parcel tax money.
The library project is already funded and could be built before the rest of the civic center.