City council got a look this week at design options for an overhaul of the council chambers at City Hall.
The blueprints were produced by KPL James Architecture and are designed to make council’s meeting space more accessible and more accommodating to larger crowds.
Council was presented with the design plans for consideration at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.
The plans include expanding the public gallery from the existing 42 seats to 90. Of those, 42 would be permanent theatre seats and 13 would be moveable seats within the council chambers. An additional 35 moveable seats would be situated in the front lobby of City Hall.
The renovation suggestions were prompted by Coun. Larry Samson last year when he said City Hall was not adequately catering to those with mobility challenges. He said the council chambers should be built to universal standards and by not doing so, council is inadvertently excluding some members of the community.
Samson noted that there is only a small area at the top of the stairs in council chambers that can accommodate wheelchairs and that the only way to access the presentation area is by taking the stairs.
He also said that there are problems with having the only public washrooms located down two flights of stairs, in the basement of City Hall.
Renovation design plans attempt to address that by including a new handicap washroom in the front lobby as well as a new handicap ramp and pony wall down one side of the council chambers.
The architects have designed the renovations to be completed in four phases.
Phase one involves raising the floor in council chambers, installing the accessibility ramp and handrails, a new door to the committee room on the other side of the council chambers, as well as a raised platform for delegates presenting to council and a poly wall between the public and council. The estimated cost of phase one is $333,361.50.
The second phase includes demolishing the existing glazed wall that separates council chambers from the lobby and replacing it with two new folding partitions so that in the event people are sitting out in the lobby the wall can be opened so that everyone is included. The estimate for that work is $161,862.10.
Phase three is the construction of the handicap washroom just inside the front doors of City Hall, at an estimated cost of $38,761.70, while the fourth and final phase would involve demolishing the existing bench seating in council chambers and installing new fixed theatre seats on the room’s existing tiers.
That work is estimated to cost $66,138.50.
Council, however, wants other options and has not approved any of the design plans. Instead, revised designs will go before council for consideration at a future meeting.