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The ballooning cost of fixing Alexandria’s City Hall

Alexandria City Hall (staff photo by James Cullum)

As Alexandria’s City Council works through a tight budget year, one of the big items infrastructure pieces looming over the city is the $110.2 million renovation of City Hall.

The renovation was brought up as an item that could be delayed at a recent budget meeting, but over time repeated deferrals — and an expansion in scope — have made the much-needed renovation more and more expensive.

“The renovation of City Hall has been deferred five times,” Giovonny Bland, from the city’s Office of Communications, told ALXnow, “moving the main renovation/construction period from FY 2015 to FY 2025.”

A decade ago, the city balked at a $50 million renovation of City Hall, and there was a minor controversy over a comment from then-Mayor Bill Euille over the possibility of financing the renovations by leasing out space in the building. Euille’s opponents in the mayoral election attacked Euille for considering ‘selling city hall’ and Euille eventually walked back the comments, saying he was considering every option.

Since then, City Hall has continued to deteriorate, getting F ratings on a new facility report in 2022, described in the Joint Facilities Master Plan Roadmap as “functionally obsolete.”

“The cost has increased over time, however, the scope of the project has also changed from an HVAC-only replacement to a full renovation of the facility,” Bland said. “The full renovation scope started in the Approved FY 2015–FY 2024 CIP and the budgeted cost at that time was $47.5 million. It has since increased to $110.2 million.”

Last year, the city added the replacement of the Market Square parking garage and the redesign of Market Square to the project.

There is $93.4 million set aside for the renovation of City Hall and the Market Square Garage in the City Manager’s proposed FY 2026 Capital Budget.

According to the City Budget (page 193):

This project was initiated with the purpose of replacing the outdated and past their life cycle heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), life safety systems and perform any necessary structural repairs. This work requires the demolition of the ceilings and lighting, and disruption of the HVAC and life safety systems in the work areas, therefore requiring the temporary relocation of the employees to a swing space for the duration of the work. Since the HVAC, life safety and structural work will have a significant impact in disrupting the workspace and building operations, and requiring the expense of temporary swing spaces, it is reasonable to be performed at the same time with the newly proposed space planning and space reconfiguration.

The budget item says the goal of the project is to create a modern and energy-efficient building with environmentally friendly systems.

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