Redesign of unpopular ‘tower’ expected
The Twisp Town Council’s support of an updated architect’s plan for a new civic building and emergency operations center keeps the project on track, but the building probably won’t look exactly like the latest artist’s rendering.
That design shows a spire-like decorative treatment at the southwest corner of the building — with “Town of Twisp” spelled out vertically — that had few if any fans among community members who commented on the design at last week’s council meeting. The Town Council didn’t seem especially wedded to it either.
Steve Roth, representing Architects West — the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, firm that is designing the building — said the feature could be modified without adding costs or compromising the building’s structural integrity.
The council heard other audience comments, including some suggesting reversal of major decisions that were in some cases made years ago, and could not be changed without major cost implications and delays.
The design is about 65% complete. The building will be constructed at the site of the existing town hall. In addition to housing town administrative offices and police headquarters, the civic building is also being designed to serve as an emergency operations center for the valley.
In addition to the current design, audience members raised questions about whether the town would be able to adequately maintain the 8,800-square-foot building, about lost parking spaces, about deliveries to nearby businesses, and about the building’s effect on Glover Street traffic. It was suggested that the town consider an alternate site — the new building will be on the site of existing Town Hall, which will be demolished — which would require undoing years of planning and lobbying for state funds to pay for the new building.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody answered the concerns, but added that not all final decisions are made and there is still time for discussion. “We’re not building this tomorrow,” she said.
However, the town does plan to begin building it this summer, with occupation in 2021, which required that the council sign off on the updated plans at last week’s meeting.
Roth, whose firm has been working with the town since 2015, said planning is at “the 65 percent construction documents level” and reflects “the concept of the building.” He noted that previous public participation in the planning process identified key desires: that the building be identifiable, maintainable and sustainable, and that it “matches the town’s character” through the use of appropriate building materials. Plans call for surrounding open space that includes the partial vacation of Third Avenue, which the council previously approved.
The building will include a town council meeting room that can also be used for a variety of public events. “It’s the heart of the building,” Roth said.
The light-filled main entrance, which Roth described as “open and welcoming,” will be on the west side of the building. He said the building will meet “silver” standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “green” construction methods. “Net zero,” he said is not achievable.
Roth said the current budget for the building is $3.3 million, but the estimated cost so far is just over $3 million, leaving some “breathing room” for changes that might be required or desired.
Roth asked the council to take action last week to keep to a strict timetable that calls for 95% design approval on March 23, call for bids on April 8, bid opening on May 6, and possible acceptance of a bid by mid-May. Construction is scheduled to start June 1 and take about one year to complete.
Ing-Moody noted that the planning process “is not new” and reflects substantial community input. Several state appropriations are covering the cost of the building. “Our local taxpayers are not paying for,” she said. “The state’s help made it possible.”
She also pointed out that the decision about a location was discussed and settled on several years ago. “We can’t acquire or renovate another building,” she said. “We can’t just put it somewhere else.”
The state money will cover the estimated $150,000 cost of demolishing the existing building, which is not a likely candidate for selling or occupation by anyone else. The town has also addressed maintenance and operational requirements, and Ing-Moody cited the building’s “built-in cost efficiencies.”
Council member Alan Caswell said he had heard from several town residents who were unanimously negative about the “tower” at the southwest corner of the building, which some described as a “movie theater” appearance. (The original design was a clock tower.) Roth said his firm will revisit the corner tower concept.
Public Works Director Andrew Denham answered a question about traffic flow, noting something of an optical illusion on drawings that appear to show the building’s footprint encroaching on Glover Street. The street’s width and its traffic lanes will be exactly the same dimensions as they are now, he said. The seeming “squeeze” will have the likely effect of slowing traffic, he said. The alley behind the building will not change in dimensions either, Denham said.
Council member Hans Smith said he was not surprised that there are mixed reactions to the building, but that the project is on track and there is still time for changes. He suggested that the council delay approval to its next meeting because two council members were absent (although council member Aaron Studen was participating by phone). Ing-Moody said any delay would push back the entire schedule, and the council agreed to move ahead.
In other business, the council appointed Will Menzes, a former town employee, to the Parks and Recreation Board, and affirmed Smith as mayor pro tem in Ing-Moody’s absence.