Columbia’s City Hall gets $1.1 million face-lift as City Council returns this week

cleblanc@thestate.comSeptember 29, 2013 

— Columbians have paid more than $1.1 million to refurbish City Hall, which on Tuesday again will become the hub of municipal government.

Council and some of the city’s land-use commissions cleared out of the 140-plus-year-old Main Street building, once a federal courthouse, in the summer of 2012 so renovations could begin. A ribbon-cutting for council chambers is set for Tuesday, as council’s evening meeting begins.

Convening a City Council meeting in the new chamber has been delayed several times as either council or city managers approved add-ons.

The renovations originally were budgeted to cost $500,000. The price tag has reached $1,113,411 as of late last week while finishing touches were completed, according to an accounting the city supplied at The State newspaper’s request.

Council has been holding its biweekly meetings in north Columbia and its committee meetings in a city parking garage conference room since mid-summer of 2012.

The bulk of the $1.1 million facelift was for work done on the council chambers, on the third floor of the granite-block building. That part of the project cost $797,847, the city’s figures show.

Chambers and its architectural features have been repaired, replastered and repainted to maintain the historic look. Six round windows at the top of the tall walls have been replaced and opened as has another once-hidden feature, a skylight that rises 34 feet from the center of the re-carpeted room. A new chandelier hangs in the middle.

Council members will sit behind a renovated and elevated dais, and the room has new lighting and up-to-date audio and video capability that includes high-end broadcasting equipment so that meetings can carry clearer images and sound on the city’s Channel 2 TV station.

City residents will enter the third floor on new carpeting, walk past repainted walls to sit on restained, refinished and re-upholstered wooden benches.

Offices behind the dais have been remodeled so that council members may use them as workstations, equipped with new furniture and computers.

The chamber is largely council’s home base. But the large room also is where the planning commission, the design-review commission and the zoning appeals board meet.

Other improvements in City Hall include remodeled and refreshed offices for the mayor and city manager, on the second floor. The hallway and conference rooms also have been repainted.

The whole building has been outfitted with an $11,265 art-hanging system so that City Hall can be used as a showplace for public art, to include pieces borrowed from museums.

The small, formerly creaky elevator has been replaced with a $213,800 same-size upgraded model.

The sources of funding for remodeling the building at Main and Laurel streets include liquor sales rebates from the state that are earmarked for historic preservation, various city accounts, a reimbursement from the federal government for the city administering some stimulus money and rebates from South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. for the use of energy-efficient lighting.

During the early stages of the 16-month-long project, Mayor Steve Benjamin described the renovation as “an investment in the city’s history.”

He added, “The people of this city should take pride.”


THE UNVEILING

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, as council’s evening meeting begins

Where: 1737 Main St.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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