HUNTERSVILLE – It’s unscripted position just prior to closing comments at the town board’s budget retreat seemed appropriate for a suggestion swaddled in uncertainty and previously un-discussed – at least in public sessions – by board members. But the prospect of transforming town-owned downtown property into the new long-term headquarters for town government, with some interior space earmarked for retail tenants, did trigger enough intrigue among commissioners to fuel future evaluation.
Town Manager Anthony Roberts introduced the idea of building a “forever” town hall on a vacant half-acre tract along N.C. 115 in the southeast corner of the Gilead Road intersection. The property, which has been on the market for several years, is in front of the town-owned Town Center building, which houses Discovery Place Kids and some town department offices. It is diagonally across the intersection from the current town hall.
Acknowledging the presentation as an introduction, Roberts still urged commissioners to consider a new home for town government operations.
“Town hall has served its purpose,” Roberts said. Then he followed up with a statement referencing the demographic facts and estimates commissioners heard in earlier retreat sessions. “It will not serve its purpose for a town of 80,000 to 90,000 people.”
Roberts’ concept calls for the town to borrow $9 million to build a three-story, 33,000-square-foot building on the property, with exterior design elements matching the brick of Town Center and the nearby town parking deck. The current town hall building, which opened in September 1997 and has 8,500 square feet of interior space, could then be marketed for office or commercial use.
The displayed plan featured town offices on the second and third floors and a large flex-space meeting and community room on part of the first floor. The remainder of the ground floor space would accommodate a mix of retail uses, including a restaurant.
Roberts said in addition to meeting a town goal of providing retail space in the downtown area – an emphasized aspect of efforts to market the property – tenant rents could also offset some building operating costs.
In response to inquiries about the practice of leasing out space in the building, Roberts admitted “I haven’t seen a government building like this.” And while Commissioner Brian Hines said he preferred to shelve the concept until some in-progress town projects are completed, others, including Commissioners Nick Walsh and Melinda Bales, gave tentative support to the idea.
Walsh said the current town hall was already outdated and Bales enthusiastically endorsed the chance to have all town offices in one building.
The board’s conclusion, summarized by Mayor John Aneralla, was to “move forward to investigate” all the possibilities.