Richardson residents will vote on whether to approve funding that would contribute to the construction of a new city hall in the May 6 general election.

Updating city hall with modern amenities has been a city goal since 2020. A $22.4 million renovation project for city hall was authorized by voters as part of the 2021 bond election to enhance the building. It included restroom renovations and second-floor office improvements.

However, an August 2022 fire on the first floor of city hall caused structural and equipment damage, forcing Richardson officials to relocate services to other facilities and consider building a new city hall. The fire also forced a delay to the concurrent Richardson Public Library renovation project, which was also part of the 2021 bond program.

Richardson City Manager Don Magner recommended the expected $85 million project to build a new city hall on the same property during a January City Council meeting. The estimated 95,000-square-foot building, if approved, would be located near the existing city hall across from the Richardson Public Library at the corner of West Arapaho Road and North Central Expressway. Plans also call for leveling the existing building to create a general community space.

If the bond proposition is approved, no tax rate increase would be associated with the sale of the bonds, Magner said.

Magner added the new city hall and a renovated library should provide residents with a more streamlined experience.

“[Residents] need to be able to do their business more efficiently and feel at home in both facilities,” he said.

Separate from the May 6 bond election, city officials are moving forward with plans to renovate the library. A temporary site for both facilities will be set up through the end of 2026.

Resident Matthew Martin, a longtime city hall user who spoke at several council meetings on the construction effort, said Richardson’s pursuit of a new city hall is an opportunity to rejuvenate interest in its projects.

“At the end of the day, if we try to revitalize the building, you’re still going to have a [40-year-old] building,” he said. “This way, we can build fresh and have a more efficient structure that fits in with the community better.”

New city hall

By building a new city hall, Richardson officials said they hope to create a more community-friendly site that would provide a number of benefits to residents.

Magner said the construction project is designed to provide more efficiency overall for city officials, with the building being at least 15% more energy efficient than the existing structure. It would also give Richardson an edge on attracting and retaining talent by having up-to-date facilities.

“By having staff better organized and more strategically located, we think people will be able to do their jobs more efficiently, which will translate to better services,” he said.

To fund the construction of a new city hall, Richardson was approved by the Texas Attorney General’s Office to access the initial $22.4 million from the 2021 bond project, Magner said. Richardson officials also said they expect to receive at least $16.5 million in insurance claims for the damaged city hall.

To fund the remainder of the project, voters will decide May 6 on a proposition for a general obligation bond referendum that would raise $46 million in new funds to help pay for the construction of a new city hall at its existing site.

Richardson Director of Communications Greg Sowell said the option to renovate city hall is still available if the proposition fails, among other possibilities.

Richardson City Council showed support for the idea of a new city hall when Magner presented options on whether to renovate or construct during a January meeting.

“With new construction, we’re going to probably eliminate or reduce the probability of having fires so easily,” Council Member Arefin Shamsul said at a Jan. 23 meeting. “Even though [the cost of the project] is a lot of money, I think the benefit it provides as a whole to the city is a positive sign.”

If approved during the election, construction on a new city hall building is slated to begin in fall 2024 and is expected to wrap up by summer 2026.

Steven Butler, president of the Richardson Historical Society, said he is concerned about losing another city landmark with the potential destruction of city hall.

“Even though it dates to 1980, the present city hall is still ... an impressive, modern-looking building, both inside and out,” Butler said. “The notion that something should be demolished simply because it’s old is how Richardson has already lost so much tangible evidence of its history.”

Butler said he is interested in saving the existing city hall if possible, though he acknowledged the fire damage has made repairing it challenging.

Library renovations

In addition to the city hall construction, officials are moving ahead with delayed plans to renovate the Richardson Public Library over the same time frame.

A combined $58.5 million library and city hall renovation project was approved by voters in a 2021 bond election. Library renovations include increasing floor space, providing more accessible community areas and repairing exterior structural deficiencies.

However, the city hall fire led to delays on the library renovations, in turn causing construction costs to increase, because both projects were expected to be completed at the same time. It also required the city to increase the time needed to temporarily relocate the library, with the city requiring a 42-month lease.

Barbara Read, president of community organization Friends of the Library, said she is excited the Richardson Public Library is seen as part of the city’s future.

“The renovation plans ... are recognition that the library is an integral part of the Richardson community,” Read said.

To offset the increased cost, city officials plan to issue $9 million in supplemental certificates of obligation bonds this year, which would not require a public vote. If a new city hall is approved by voters, Richardson will issue an additional $3 million in certificates of obligation bonds in 2024 and consider additional library renovations, Magner said.

“There’s an opportunity to have an interface between the two buildings that is more engaging,” he said.

Temporary facilities

During the construction projects, city officials are planning to operate a combined temporary city hall and library site through the end of 2026.

Following the fire, city hall’s workforce relocated to four buildings: the two police support buildings on North Greenville Avenue, the Municipal Court on East Campbell Road and The Richardson Innovation Quarter headquarters on East Collins Boulevard. In addition, public meetings were moved to other city and Richardson ISD facilities.

While this setup was manageable as a temporary option, Magner said Richardson needs a more permanent plan for housing city hall services during construction and renovations.

To accommodate both temporary city hall and library operations, the city has signed a 3.5-year lease at 2360 Campbell Creek Blvd. Magner said the lease comes with an option to extend as needed, giving the city time to complete the renovations while accounting for delays.

When selecting a temporary site, Magner said it was important to pick a location that was easily accessible for residents and that has many parking spaces. The temporary facility is meant to be accessible from both Greenville Avenue and Plano Road, two major roads on the east side of Richardson.

The combined temporary space is approximately 77,500 square feet. City officials and staff members are expected to move into the new site during the summer, with the lease ending in January 2027.

Magner added that having both city hall and the library under one roof will make it easier for residents to do business at the facility.

“We’re [currently] not located in the same building on the city hall campus, but it’s pretty convenient with the two buildings adjacent to one another,” he said. “If [residents] want to drop off a library book and pick up information about a program, not having them have to run to different locations is important.”