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Sweeping City Hall renovation plans could also reshape Market Square and nearby parking garage

As Alexandria leaders prepare to vacate City Hall for a few years while the building is renovated, a wish list is already building for what a new and improved City Hall could look like.

The center of city government, rebuilt in 1871 after the previous building burned down, is in rough shape and the much-needed renovations have long been kicked down the road.

The City Council got an update on the City Hall renovation plans at a meeting last week. Jeremy McPike, director of the Department of General Services, said the city is looking to award a design contract sometime in spring 2024.

Construction funding is set aside for fiscal year 2025, with the design of the swing space in the same year. The renovations are scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2027.

The project is estimated to cost around $210 million.

McPike said there will be significant public input this upcoming spring as designs are finalized.

The renovations will hit more than just City Hall, McPike said the work will also replace the Market Square parking garage and include a redesign of Market Square.

There are still plenty of unknowns in the project, McPike said the city isn’t even sure what’s in the walls in some parts of the building.

“Every 60 years since this building’s birth, it’s been reinvented into something new,” McPike said. “In the process, there are electrical, mechanical, structural, hazmat [things] behind these walls that we are yet to fully get into.”

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson asked if the building’s footprint could be enlarged to take up some space in Market Square. McPike said no expanded footprint was currently being planned, but that staff did hear from city leaders that they wanted improved space for ceremonies.

Meanwhile, McPike said the city could use 4480 King Street — where the Health Department was located before it consolidated with other departments in a West End building — as a temporary replacement for the current City Hall.

The Old Town Farmers’ Market, however, would be relocated not far from the current location at Market Square.

“We planned several years ago for a backup, understanding there would be significant disruption [with this project],” McPike said. “We have, in the lease next door at Tavern Square, the opportunity to do the farmers market there. We have plans for North Royal Street as well; the same spot but a slightly different location.”

McPike said a goal of city staff was to keep the Old Town Farmers’ Market as intact as possible.

“We like to pride ourselves on having the longest continuing operating farmers market in the United States, so we are preserving that record,” McPike said. “Maybe by a sidewalk or two, for technicalities, but we have certainly built in those plans to continue to operate here in Old Town.”

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