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Council Gets a Look at New Borough Hall During Hearing

A conditional use hearing was held for a new borough hall on Bridge Street.

Plans for Phoenixville’s new borough hall were shown at Tuesday’s borough council meeting.

Representatives from Spiezle Architecture Group, along with the civil engineer working on the project, were on hand to discuss the new building, which will be located adjacent to the current district justice building at 347 Bridge St. The three-story building will be 45-feet high and plans include 123 parking spaces.

The police department will be housed on the first floor, with a gated, covered police parking area around the back. The second floor will feature administrative offices and windows where residents speak to borough staff. The third floor has the public meeting space, which can be divided into a smaller conference room area. A caucus room, archive storage, the public works office, a break room for employees and the server room will also be on the third floor.

Existing elevators and stairwells will be used, and one new stairwell will be added from the second floor to the third floor in the new building. Council President Richard Kirkner said the district justice building was built in anticipation of the addition.

“The lobby was built with another building to the west of the existing building in mind,” Kirkner said.

As a conditional use hearing, the focus was on the footprint, general layout, parking and circulation on the site, rather than the overall design. More input on that can be given during the subdivision and land development phase, according to Solicitor Andrew Rau.

Kirkner said he had some concerns with the design but understood that it was not really the forum for that at the conditional use hearing.

“It just looks awfully boxy for a municipal building,” he said.

The council president also expressed some concerns about stormwater on the site, which is near the French Creek. He asked what would happen if a storm like Hurricane Agnes came through.

“The parking lot will be under water,” said Mike Thomas, civil engineer at Hunt Engineering Company.

Police officers would still have access to their garage from the east but not the west in a bad storm situation, Thomas said. The stormwater management system will be buried under the parking lot, which would be covered in water in the event of a flood.

Planning Commission Member David Saneck said he was concerned about building in a flood-prone area. Saneck cast the dissenting vote on the planning commission, which voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the conditional use for the project.  

Resident William McGinley said he didn’t like that there was a good chance the police department could be limited to one access in the event of a flood. He also criticized the spending on the project.

“You’re wasting $8 million,” McGinley said.

The conditional use hearing dealt with whether or not the building could be used for a  municipal use and the hearing was required by the borough's zoning ordinances. Council voted 8-0 to approve the conditional use application.

The plans aren't set in stone and will go back before the planning commission and may also be discussed in the infrastructure committee. The project will come back to council for preliminary and final approvals. The new borough hall will also have to go through the borough's Historical Architecture Review Board.  

Greg Hytha March 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Yea, we shouldn't have to worry about flooding. it's about time we upgraded Borough Hall. Council president is right though, building is a bit "boxy" looking. This design doesn't seem to match Phoenixville's architectural substance. Upper Providence did a nice job with their design...
Edvard Roperkov March 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Why do you think we shouldn't have to worry about flooding?
Kevin R Pound March 16, 2012 at 01:00 PM
As usual, Borough Council is going to do exactly as it darn well please regardless of common sense.
GSupp March 16, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Planning commission needs to require green infrastructure to minimize stormwater flooding on the site. Pervious paving and other practices before approving.
Ramona Moreland March 16, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Why does every borough and township hall in the area inexplicably need to be improved NOW? Is this a case of keeping up with the Joneses? I'm more concerned about how Phoenixville is planning on paying for this. Borough Hall has been a disgrace for decades. Why NOW? A tax rate hike will probably be the answer. Perfect, especially when the economy is still as shaky as it is.
Edvard Roperkov March 16, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Seriously. We can't afford more officers, but heck, we can make sure they have a cool new shiny building they can understaff. Doesn't make sense.
Kevin R Pound March 16, 2012 at 01:58 PM
In January, Borough Council approved a bond issue, resulting in an additional $10.8 million dollars in debt, of which about $8 million is for this building. This was how we wound up with a 19% tax hike. And you're right, the current borough hall has been nasty for years, but it doesn't appear on the verge of collapse any time soon.
Bud Horenci March 16, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Not sure if I can help the debate or not but most folks are unaware of how often things break down at Borough Hall. The heater, airconditioning, and electrical all break down regularly. The roof needs to be replaced. And it all costs a small fortune to keep operational. None of these things can be easily replaced without shutting down the building for extended periods and at significant costs. Plus there is significamt over crowding. Have any of you been down in the police department recently? They are practically sitting on each others laps. There's barely room for a platoon meeting yet alone something bigger. And probably the most significant reason to do it now are the extremly low borrowing rates. Future borrowing rates will be higher and cost the Borough a lot more money. I'm still not happy but it needs to be done now.
Edvard Roperkov March 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM
It's no secret that we need a new borough hall. But they seem to be going at it haphazardly re: the flooding issue. The way they willfully ignore the issues definitely helps bolster my opinion that it all comes down to quid pro quo. Who benefits from them buying that land, and building there.
Bud Horenci March 16, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I think the flooding issue can be resolved with proper engineering. However, I couldn't agree with you more regarding the price of $950,000 for that lot, which seems WAY over the top. Not sure what the appraisers were smoking but I wouldn't give you half that for it if I had a zillion in the bank.
Nemo Wine March 16, 2012 at 04:38 PM
i'm glad someone else noticed one of the design flaws -- a single point of failure due to building inappropriately on flood plane. What about a moat with a draw bridge! Bridge Street, get it? A west coast designer alerted me to this article with the question for me -- "What an uninspired, pedestrian piece of dreck.... Who is responsible for that monstrosity?"
Realist March 16, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Why now? Because Kirker wants his stamp on it before he leaves Council. Everyone in town is tired of his antics and childish behavior. There is no way he can be elected again unless there is some shenanigans (not impossible in this town). He wants it the way he wants it. He probably wants serif fonts on the front of it as well.
Bill N. March 16, 2012 at 05:13 PM
1) Proper flood-mitigation MUST be worked into the engineering plan. We need to implement proven methods such as what has been used in Milwaukee (http://www.conservationfund.org/project/greenseams_program). 2) The architect needs to go back to school, because that design looks like the boxy elementary school I attended as a kid. 3) Where will we have the Firebird fest, as the whole area will be used by this new building?
Jaxxon March 16, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Agreed.
Ed Naratil March 16, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I guess no one on council is old enough to remember June 1972. If they'd like some pictures of that flood, I've got a couple. Let's see now. 100 year flood plan - Oh, the next one is not due until 2072. We've got 60 years to save $$ to repair the damage. I won't have to worry about MY taxes going up. I'll be in a better place (maybe).
Emmett Gruici March 17, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Exterior looks like a warehouse to me. But I guess it will be better than the horrible building now in use. Peace! - Emmett Gruici
Nemo Wine March 17, 2012 at 03:59 AM
When I went in for permitting, I noticed that the Codes Department employees were breathing off-gassing mildew and mold. Clearly something has to be done. What about the failed Friendship Firehouse building site at the 200 block of Fillmore St and Franklin Ave? right here on the map -- http://g.co/maps/d6skd
Daniel Pipes March 17, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Listen. This Boro hall is well needed. It will be here for fifty years. Borrowing is cheap and so are Boro taxes. The police deserve better accommodations. Why don't people get upset about about the wasted money on tainted land for a school, three new schools in 10 years, a million dollar bridge in a parking lot, another million on two football fields in the last six years, five school superintendents, misappropriation of school funds, teacher pensions and a half million dollars to the library. SCHOOL TAXES are five times what you pay in Boro taxes and all we here is about a boxy building and a 100 year flood plain. C'mon people get your priorities straight.
Bud Horenci March 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Amen brother. Where's the school tax and waste outrage?
Lylia Hoehl March 17, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Boy, that is one ugly building. It reminds me of a mausoleum.
William Myers March 18, 2012 at 12:54 AM
They are buying the property from the same person that is building the hall . No one would pay what the Boro is paying for this property .
Weighingin March 18, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Not true. The land was purchased from the Demutis Group and being built by another entity.
Ike March 18, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Shenanigans !!!!!! ha , Where??? Here?????,,,,,There??????Who?????,,,,,,Where are they gonna put the billboards????....They can make some money back from them!!!
William Myers March 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Who owns 3D construction ?
Weighingin March 18, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Do you mean 3D group? That is Demutis. The Phoenix reported in December that IMC construction would be doing the project. This is the same firm that is doing the middle school.
Roy Hendl March 19, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Borough hall may be needed but is this the right place and cost? I would bet it could be done better and cheaper. The tax in the borough went up a little less than 30% in the last two years. Wait until the cost overruns for the new building and see how much the taxes go up. Yes, that is an ugly building, and, yes, why would they build a new borough hall on a flood plain? That doesn't make much sense to me. If the district justice building was built in anticipation of the expansion, sounds like the decision was made years ago behind closed doors. As for the school taxes, I have written to the current and former superintendent and the school board asking questions and making suggestions. The answer from the superintendents in so many words is, "go away." The school board just ignores you. I would love to see more residents hold the school board accountable.
Dan March 20, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Wow.. what happened to inspired and passionate architects??? that thing is an embarrassment! awful... there is nothing about that building that "fits" the look of an old down town.
Brian Sakal March 21, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Why don't you run for council if you think you can do better? Takes a real tough guy to bad-mouth someone behind a keyboard. How about posting your real name?
Ken Buckwalter March 22, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Bud - The price paid included the use use of the entry and elevator of the existing building. Two elevators were installed when the first building was built. There was also infrastructure improvements that were included in the price that were put in place during the original construction that the borough doesn't now have to do.
Bud Horenci March 22, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Thanks Ken. That helps explain the price but....it's still way higher than anyone would expect and would likely pay, except for the Borough. A million dollars buys a lot of land and improvements.

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