The renovation of the City of Eau Claire, WI’s historic City Hall has been named one of the American Public Works Association’s Public Works Projects of the Year for 2020. The City Hall was selected as the top project in the Small Cities/Rural Communities Historical Restoration/Preservation category.
The Eau Claire City Hall is comprised of two National Register 100-year-old buildings – one a former Carnegie Library – located on a prominent site within the heart of downtown Eau Claire. Changes in security, accessibility, and public engagement drove city leadership to collaborate with JLG Architects to re-imagining the City Hall to create a unified entrance, simplified circulation and navigation to departments, enhanced public service windows for staff safety, consolidated and clarified departmental spaces, and reorganized department locations to assure most-used departments are easily accessible to citizens.
The design of the City Hall offers a welcoming, customer service-oriented approach. The most frequently-used community services – such as Customer Service, Housing, and Planning – are easily available to the public as soon as they enter the building. Departmental suites are divided from each other with full height glass partitions to allow lots of natural light to penetrate the spaces and show citizens their civic leaders at work, while also creating acoustical privacy. Many of the citizens can get their questions answered or get help from the counter and do not need to enter the suites. Two enhanced building entrances provide convenient access by bus, walking, or car. New accessible restrooms improve access for the disabled and elderly. The design also includes several glass conference rooms throughout the facility for one-on-one or small group meetings between citizens and city staff.
Previous renovations within the walls of the historic buildings were not always executed in the most appropriate manner; for example, wall openings were constructed without structural headers. The past decisions and actions affected the structural integrity of bearing walls, exterior steps, and roof structures. Repairing the damage from the past while ensuring structural stability of the key structural elements was challenging. Great care was also given to repair and restore many of the historic elements, including uncovering old fireplaces, retrofitting original skylights, and highlighting wood moldings.
A number of sustainable choices were made to improve indoor comfort and reduce long-term operational costs – including high-efficiency lighting and a new HVAC system, which were installed with proximity sensors to reduce energy costs by 24% pre-renovation.