NORTH ROYALTON – The community will bid farewell to a beloved fixture symbolic of North Royalton at the end of the year.
These are the final months that the revered city hall situated atop the City Green will serve as such. Come November, the old library being readied since June will pick up the legacy where the current site leaves off.
No one will argue that the current site, especially from Ridge Road, is stunning. Looking at the building’s exterior, it’s easy to spot the rich history this community has.
In 1932, the city was performing excavation work to enlarge the old town hall when a wall collapsed, making it necessary to rebuild. A new basement was completed in 1933 and four years later, the upper floors of the main building at city hall were completed. On June 7, 1964, the building was rededicated once the upper floor of the northern wing, where caucus chambers are now, was added, and the addition of the southern wing was completed, which was the police department but is now finance. The north wing’s first floor, which originally housed the fire station, was paid for by a bond issue of $25,000 in 1948. The 1964 additions and renovations cost $115,000 at the time.
Unfortunately now, the building is not as beautiful inside as it is out.
“The face of the building on Ridge Road, together with the gazebo, have been the face of our city,” said Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris. “But, it is moldy, musty, bricks are loose and in disrepair. When your computer servers are on box crates to avoid getting wet, it’s time to move. It has served its purpose to our community well, but it’s time to move on.”
The wings are in bad shape.
The mayor’s office is located where the fire department formerly was and that section has been prone to flooding.
The HVAC system is outdated and forever on the fritz, in fact now, the air conditioning system is completely out in a portion of the mayor’s wing, but Mayor Bob Stefanik has said he doesn’t want to spend more money with the move so close, so they have been using a portable unit to make due.
Wallpaper is tearing, carpet is unraveling.
“Bricks are coming out. In the finance area, an entire wall is bowed out. Foundation is pulling away from the building,” Stefanik said.
The building’s technological offerings are nearly as historic as the façade.
Most agree the phone and computer systems are laughable. The staff routinely has issues with call waiting and transferring calls. Computers can take what seems like eons to load.
Council chambers shows its age not only in décor but in its lack of technological capabilities especially for presentations. There is no projector. The dais is intimidating and formidable as it’s extremely elevated and almost judgmental is character and appearance.
But its most blatant offense is that this public building is not ADA compliant for the people it serves.
“City hall is the people’s house and should be easily accessible for all residents. The new city hall will be one of the most accessible buildings in the city because it is all on one floor and has no stairs,” said Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw.
It’s not just as simple as laying down cash to bring the site up to code. To do so, it is estimated would cost more than a $1 million and that doesn’t begin to address the other issues. It was more cost effective, council agreed, to renovate the much newer library facility then to invest in what many describe as a sinking ship.
“The costs that it would take to make the old city hall ADA compliant and all the necessary repairs would not be in the best interest of taxpayers,” Langshaw said.
In 2004, the master plan called for a brand new city hall facility, a new rec center and a new library at a cost of $30 million total. The new library was built and opened to the public a year ago, the city has been enjoying the North Royalton Family YMCA for two years, so the last piece of the puzzle is city hall.
Stefanik never sought a new, $10 million facility like that first master plan envisioned. His intent from the get go has been to provide a city hall for his staff and the community that meets everyone’s needs; is modern, up-to-date and presentable; something everyone can be proud of; and something that won’t break the bank.
The current and the new city hall will be night and day.
Those familiar with the current library building know that upon entering, there is a wide foyer of sorts with a large meeting room and restrooms on the left. These fixtures will stay in place to accommodate public meetings for groups. To the right will be the finance department.
The foyer itself will be reconfigured to brighten it up and modernize it.
After walking through the second set of double doors at the end of the foyer, one will find himself in a rotunda, or what Building Commissioner Dan Kulchytsky has referred to as a pre-event space for people to gather prior to council or other city meetings.
The council chambers will also be reconfigured creating a more friendly, inviting atmosphere than the current chambers with its nose-bleed section dais.
The room will accommodate 150 people, 50 more than the current chambers.
Council is also seated now in such a way now that members cannot easily see one another. Audience members, depending on where they are seated and how crowded the room is, often have difficulty spotting department heads, who are at tables against the room’s far wall.
The new site corrects this, seating council in an arch that will allow them to look at each other and interact. The floor plan calls for the lowering of the dais as well as the installation of seating for department heads that makes them more visible.
Technology wise, this building will finally move staff into the 21st century.
Council chambers will be equipped with audio visual elements so that both the audience and councilmen can follow along together during certain presentations.
The Krill Co. Inc. is design builder for the project.
Right now walls are going up and dividing the interior into rooms. Council chambers is beginning to take shape.
So what will become of the current city hall?
Some would like to seek out grant funding to restore to building to its original grandeur. Others would like to see an amphitheater or performing arts center, and others still would like to see the City Green become a recreational park with the building serving as a community center.
What will become of it remains to be seen.
As for the new site, perhaps no one is more eager to see the new building than North Royalton’s Library Branch Manager Jeanne Cilenti, as it was her old home away from home.
“I want to see it. I want to be there when it opens,” she said.
Library patrons always asked her in the final days of the old branch what would become of the building. Cilenti was always reassuring.
“We went on to a new and improved home, but the old building is going to be taken care of. It’s a good thing. We had the grand opening of the Y, the grand opening of the library, and now, we’ll have the grand opening of the new city hall. Three wonderful things that have come about for the city in such a short period of time,” Cilenti said. “All positive things.”