Opa-locka

December 2014 target for Opa-locka City Hall restoration ‘doable’

 

Historic building

Opa-locka’s City Hall is one of 172 buildings in Miami-Dade County listed on the National Register of Historic Places and one of 20 listed in the city, according to the register’s database of listed buildings.


pbuteau@MiamiHerald.com

As Opa-locka officials start to move into their new temporary home, restoration of the historic City Hall is moving into phase two.

After determining the amount of damage done to the historic building at 777 Sharazad Blvd., the city will now begin the process of requesting bids from construction companies.

Construction is supposed to begin January and be completed by 2015. However, the city’s contractors hope it could be completed by December 2014.

The restoration is part of the city’s larger redevelopment plans, which include reinventing Opa-locka’s image.

A 10-day charette, a period of intense design and planning activity, led people on the redevelopment team to see City Hall as the catalyst for redeveloping the city.

Mary Means, a community planner with Mary Means and Associates who specializes in restoration of historic buildings and the city’s consultant on the project, is working in tandem with the Opa-locka Community Development Corp. and Economic Stewardship Inc. to change how the city is viewed and find a new purpose for the City Hall building.

If everything goes according to plan, Opa-locka would have a thriving arts district by the city’s 100-year anniversary in 2026 and the City Hall could be the home of a museum and a restaurant.

The city, the CDC and the County’s Department of Cultural Affairs are hosting an invite-only tour for artists to showcase City Hall and city redevelopment plans on Oct. 2.

While the exact purpose of historic City Hall is not yet known, the architecture company assured the City Commission that restoration would not exceed their budget.

M.C. Harry and Associates, the architecture company the city has contracted, did a conditions assessment report which took about six months to complete. The report confirmed that restoration could be done with the $2 million the city has reserved for the project.

The building has mold and mildew buildup due to rainwater from a hole in one of the towers.

“In the big picture, this building is not in as bad a shape as other buildings we worked on,” said architect James Piersol, of M.C. Harry & Associates.

Renovation plans include building new bathrooms where none previously existed, replace old windows with hurricane proof windows, and making sure the entire building complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in 1990, 70 years after the building was originally constructed.

The city used the City Hall from 1939 to 2008. But officials moved out of the building five years ago after outgrowing it.

The historic building, built in 1926 as the city’s centerpiece, has an Arabian Nights inspired theme: Moorish Revival architectural style, complete with domes, minarets and courtyard gardens.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which protects historic buildings and sets federal standards for renovation.

The standards dictate that fixing should be considered rather than replacement, if replacement is required the same material must be used and as a last resort new material must be harmonious with original architecture.

“We could say, ‘I don’t like those windows. I like my windows; I like plate glass windows.’ No, that’s not the right approach,” Piersol said. “The building has a certain unique character to it that we need to respect and need to put back.”

He described this restoration project as “very doable,” considering its budget and 15-month time frame.

“It’s more detail-oriented versus requiring great volume,” Piersol said. “In the construction world there are projects completed in one year and have $10 million budgets.”

M.C. Harry & Associates’ previous historic restoration projects include all the historic restoration and renovation of the Dade County Courthouse, Fire Station 2 in Overtown and various historic buildings in Coral Gables.

“Historic buildings are treasures we all have, [and] one of the things we like to do is restore those treasures,” Piersol said.

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