Suwanee unveils three drawings of new City Hall

SUWANEE - Citizens got their first look at three proposed drawings of the new City Hall building in Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Three architectural firms are competing to build the planned 20,000-square-foot structure that will stand in Town Center Park. City officials expect to break ground in September 2007 and move into the facility December 2008.

The drawings will be on display for public viewing and comments until Aug. 3 at City Hall, 373 Buford Highway.

The three firms were asked to submit a City Hall design that will make a statement, while complementing Town Center Park's Georgia downtown theme. Officials plan to spend $5.8 million to construct the 20,000-square-foot facility that allows at least 10,000 square feet of room for expansion in the coming years.

Architects at BRPH of Marietta studied Suwanee's history and compiled a drawing inspired by its proximity to the railroad. They presented drawings of a two-story building with a 95-foot-tall clock tower and a curved roof that mirrors the roofline on the Town Center Park amphitheater stage. It features second-story, glass-enclosed council chambers with parking on the street and underground.

Rosser International presented an ultra-contemporary three-story building with underground and street parking. The building is fronted by a wall of windows with a three-story glass atrium running through its center.

The Sizemore Group's drawing also incorporates lots of windows on its north-facing front. The dome-shaped, one-story building features a terrace and courtyard in the rear. The glass-enclosed council chambers is located in the front and uses on-street parking.

Suwanee hired Urban Collage, the same firm that helped design Suwanee's Old Town Master Plan in 2001, to do a needs analysis. City staff has shared 11,000 square feet with the Police Department since 1997, when the police moved into City Hall. City Hall Project Manager Mike Gulesarian works on a laptop at the coffee station in the lobby because of a lack of space.

Suwanee recently sold the 7.25 acres on which buildings one and two stand at Town Center Park. That sale paid off the $1.4 million bond Suwanee used to purchase the land, and gives them a $2 million profit. That $2 million will be used as a down payment on the new City Hall. A grove of trees marks its future site.

Mayor Nick Masino said Suwanee plans to borrow the rest of the money because the millage rate is sufficient to make the payments.

"We are currently saving the cash amount we were using to pay the bonds," Masino said.

When City Hall is complete, the Police Department will expand into the remainder of its current building. The Public Works Department, which now occupies the rear third of the fire station, will move into another facility off site. The Police Department will use its vacated space at the fire station for storage.

City Council members will pick the winning plan in special called meeting Aug. 3. All nonwinning firms will earn $6,500 for their time and creativity. Suwanee reserves the rights to all plans submitted, so they can borrow ideas from nonwinning plans if needed.