While the wheels of government may turn slow on some issues, the City of Savannah is wasting no time on the renovation of the Thomas Gamble Municipal Building.
City council on Thursday approved a design services contract with Greenline Architecture for the 145-year-old property located next door to City Hall.
The $625,000 contract comes less than a month after the majority of city council authorized City Manager Jay Melder to explore the renovation of the building, which could house nearly 130 city employees.
According to the meeting agenda, the contract will be used to develop renovation plans that address capital improvements to the building. Areas of focus include the existing mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems, building structure and building envelope, environmental safety, building code compliance, and office efficiency.
The item passed 8-1 with Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter opposing the contract over parking and accessibility concerns. Gibson-Carter also wanted more information on what city departments would be housed in the Gamble building.
“… As the alderwoman at large for the entire City of Savannah it is in my best interest that all of my citizens have the ability to gain access to our city facilities and so knowing what city departments will be in that building is in my best interest as well because I’m not interested in the continuation of wasteful spending of this administration,” she said.
According to Melder, the building would house strategic services such as budgeting, auditing and human resources, not resident-facing services.
The contract also includes consultant services to conduct investigative reports, existing conditions assessments and recommendations on repair/renovation along with architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing design, construction administration services, and project closeout.
The 40,000-square-foot building has housed various departments over the years including the city attorney’s office, the Land Bank Authority and stormwater engineering.
Gamble has been vacant since 2019 after two failed attempts to sell it.
In 2018, council approved an agreement with Foram Group to buy the the Gamble building for $8.5 million. Foram planned to convert the building into a condo complex with a rooftop garden but later backed out of the purchase.
Savannah Archives:Millionaire Eugene Kelly financed 1877 construction of Gamble Building
In 2019 council approved the sale of the Gamble building to Texas-based Gamble Partners LLC for $7.05 million. The deal fell through after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The ongoing Broughton streetscape upgrades got a little pricier on Thursday after council approved a contract modification with Astra Group Inc. in the amount of $871,507.
The additional funds are needed to replace an existing deteriorated 12-inch water main. The replacement will be funded by the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.
The original contract was approved by the previous city council administration in December 2019 in the amount of $11,208,888, which was funded by Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
The total contract amount to date including Thursday’s modification is $12,080,395.
Issues have plagued the project since its early days. Work began in April 2020 and was expected to take nine to 12 months to complete. The COVID-19 pandemic and utility issues led to several delays, and the latest estimate is October. Broughton is currently closed between Bull and Drayton streets and Drayton and Abercorn streets as crews continue construction and repairs.
The original scope of work included the replacement of storm drainage infrastructure, new brick paver sidewalks, parking and crosswalks, new information kiosks, granite curbing, lighting, landscaping, hardscapes, bike racks, benches, Americans with Disability Act accessible sidewalk ramps, and creating a festival zone between Whitaker and Drayton Streets.
The contract modification passed 8-1 with Gibson-Carter opposing.
Katie Nussbaum is the city and county government reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] Twitter: KnussSMN