GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 14, 2012

City Hall ready for $2M of fixes

Second repair phase to tackle roof, chimneys

By Steven Fletcher
Staff Writer

The next phase of Gloucester's City Hall restoration project is heading out to bid next month.

While work on the City Hall clock tower wrapped up in 2010, the City Hall restoration commission has worked since then with architect McKinley, Kalsow and Manley, on the second phase of the restoration.

That work will include restoration and renovation of the historic building's roof and chimneys, plus cleaning up any loose ends on the clock tower — all to the tune of $2.2 million, project organizers say.

The project is being largely paid for through borrowing under the Community Preservation Act, with the city leveraging $2.6 million in CPA money against anticipated revenues last year. CPA dollars are generated by the city through a percent property tax surcharge approve by voters in a 2008 referendum, and through a percentage of matching funds set aside by the state through deeds transactions.

The cost of the project may slow some of the coming repairs, Gloucester Building Inspector Bill Sanborn said Friday.

City Hall is assessed at about $1.79 million. And with repairs estimated at more than 30 percent of the building's assessed value — in this case, more than 100 percent of it — state law requires the building be brought up to modern accessibility standards.

In a historic building such as City Hall, Sanborn said, meeting some of those regulations is neither feasible nor financially viable.

According to McKinley's report, the city has obtained variances from the state Architectural Access Board on several accessibility requirements — mainly ramps at entrances, handrails, and the City Hall elevator car.

The city has one ramp at the south entrance, but putting ramps at other entrances, the report states, would be expensive, impractical, and damage the historic integrity of the building. The same goes for most of the handrails in City Hall.

For other accessibility work, McKinley asked the state to allow for a phased approach.

Alongside the second phase of restoration work, McKinley proposes making the north entrance one for exit only. Other changes in that vein would include adjusting door opening mechanisms, replacing doorknobs with handles, updating signs and the improving the assisted listening equipment in City Hall.

Maggie Rosa, chairwoman of the City Hall Restoration Commission, said in an email that the architectural firm has received the variances it needs for starting Phase II.

"The Architectural Accessibility Board has granted variances on the entry ways," said Rosa.

Overall, according to a scope of work from McKinley, Phase II will restore much of the roof, cornice and portico — "(everything) from the roof down to the soffit," said Sanborn.

Specifically, the $2 million would rebuild the north chimney, remove the south one, fix ventilation on the roof, and may include window restoration, said Sanborn, if the bid comes in low enough to make that work feasible.

Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or sfletcher@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.