The ground floor of Marietta’s century-old National Guard Armory building could be ready for occupancy by February 2015, according to a tentative project timeline released during a meeting of Marietta City Council’s lands, buildings and parks committee and Armory Square, Inc. Tuesday.
“The committee members have agreed to ask the city engineering department to solicit bids for the design and plans to renovate the ground floor of the armory,” said Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee.
That nod from the committee members paves the way for legislation to possibly be introduced during city council’s April 3 meeting that would kick off the third phase of the Armory Square project-renovating the ground floor area to include public restrooms, city council chambers, and satellite office space for both non-profit and for-profit entities.
“A lot has already been accomplished on the building in the first two phases, including a new roof, new windows and doors, and the completion of structural repairs,” Noland said.
He noted that the armory parking lot has also been renovated and a canopy added to the south end of the building to accommodate bus travelers.
“At this time we have an Ohio Department of Transportation grant for a quarter million dollars to continue renovations, but to qualify for that grant we have to have an occupancy permit by September, 2015,” Noland said, adding that Armory Square, Inc. has raised $63,099 in matching funds for the ODOT grant.
Armory Square, Inc. president Jane Tumas-Serna said a total of $683,000 has been donated by the community toward the entire armory renovation project over the last several years.
“We talk a lot about grant funding, but the local community has donated that money,” she said. “And this is a project that will serve the community.”
While the grant and matching funds will not renovate all of the remaining areas of the armory building, Noland said the ground floor area could be done which would qualify for a partial occupancy permit and meet the ODOT grant requirements.
“The administration has also been talking about using the upper floors for city offices, and we think that’s great. They should go for it,” Noland said. “But we need to have the ground floor renovated first to meet the grant deadline.”
According to the Armory Square business plan, the renovated ground floor would house Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant public restrooms, city council chambers, a satellite office for Washington County Veterans Services, a WASCO, Inc. habilitation center to provide in-kind janitorial and grounds keeping services, and business space for Baron’s Bus Lines and The Marietta Adventure Company.
The Marietta Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau has also expressed potential interest in locating at the armory building.
Although there has been no official discussion with city council, the city administration has developed concept drawings that would include several city offices on the ground and second floors of the building.
“This is not a plan, just a concept looking at some options,” city safety-service director Jonathan Hupp said Wednesday.
Hupp and Mayor Joe Matthews have suggested moving offices currently located in the municipal building at 304 Putnam St. into the armory and putting 304 Putnam up for sale, along with another city building at 308 Putnam St.
Earlier this month legislation was introduced before city council that would allow the city safety-service director to advertise for proposals from firms to provide appraisals on the two properties.
Most of the offices currently located at 308 Putnam St. will be transfered to the city hall building at 301 Putnam once city hall renovations are completed.
Hupp said if 304 Putnam would be sold, those offices, including the engineering department, water department, development department and health department, could be relocated at the armory.
The administration’s concept drawings include space on the ground floor of the armory for the veterans services, WASCO, Inc., bus service, council chambers, and public restrooms, but also include ground floor storage space for the engineering, development, water and health departments.
Offices for all four departments would be located on the second floor and third-floor mezzanine areas of the armory.
Matthews had a previous engagement and could not attend Tuesday’s lands, buildings and parks committee meeting. Hupp was also not in attendance at the session.
Noland said he will schedule another committee meeting so that the administration can present the concept plans.
“The selling of (308 and 304 Putnam) has not been discussed by council, but I would love to have that discussion,” he said. “But I think it would be a mistake to put the engineering, water and health departments in the armory. If a flood occurs people wouldn’t be able to access those departments.”
The armory building is located within the flood plain.
But Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, disagreed with Noland.
“I could see all of those facilities going into the armory,” he said. “We could clear out (the buildings at 308 and 304 Putnam). The armory seems like a perfect match for the offices at 304 Putnam.”
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, said the armory renovation is to promote economic development, not for city offices.
“Council chambers could be located on the ground floor of the armory, but I think the engineering and health departments should remain at 304 Putnam,” he said.