By Linda Dillman
Occupation of Canal Winchester’s new municipal building—the former McDorman Auto Museum on East Waterloo Street—will not happen for at least another year and active work has yet to take place inside the building, but the city is moving ahead with planning and design for the multi-million-dollar project.
“We have completed the initial preliminary services contract,” said city Contract Services Administrator Bill Sims. “As a result of that process, we decided we wanted to take a second look at a couple aspects of the improvements for some more value, primarily in regard to mechanical, electrical and plumbing related items.”
The city acquired the property in February 2020 and Sims anticipates the final design and construction contract this spring.
“We hope to be ready to be substantially complete by the end of 2021,” said Sims. “Some site work may remain to be finished in spring 2022 depending on fall weather conditions.
As for the cost for design, construction, demolition of the neighboring Steube Community Center, and outfitting the building, the overall estimated project cost currently sits at $4.12 million.
Sims hopes the second look they are taking now will result in opportunities for cost reductions.
A $2.4 million owner-financed contract between the city and Alice McDorman to purchase the building and 1.29-acre site at 45 E. Waterloo St. was approved a year ago. The 10-year term contract with the city includes quarterly payments of approximately $73,000. The cost will be initially funded through a short-term loan. The city previously stated it has no intention to ask residents for additional debt to cover costs.
The former auto museum was opened in 2014 by auto dealer Bob McDorman. The 23,700-foot museum closed in 2016 after McDorman passed away in 2015 and its inventory was liquidated in 2017.
A 4,405 square-foot community center is planned for the west end of the building.
Empty space in the east end could serve as a new library branch. Council space will double with overflow space available for larger crowds, along with expanded office space, meeting rooms and security upgrades.
“The library portion is 8,000 square feet +/-,” said Sims. “A formal agreement is not yet signed. We are working on the agreement with them. The HVAC and electrical systems that were needed to serve the auto museum are insufficient for our use or really any other use so both have to be replaced completely. On the plus side, having that large unused building converted to community uses is a plus for the downtown and the city in general.”
As with any project, Sims said there are a lot of decisions to be evaluated and made. He said the process has taken a bit longer than initially anticipated, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
“It is much better, and usually cheaper, to work through these decisions on the front end than to have to deal with them once you’re into construction,” Sims said. “Working with an existing building is beneficial in that a good bit of the work is already completed; however, it also has it’s challenges. Our needs and desires need to reasonably fit into the predetermined shape and dimensions of the existing structure.
The existing structure contains certain structural components that are not easily altered, so we have to minimize the amount of structural changes that can be performed.”
While demolition of the Steube Community Center is planned for early fall, the timeline is not set in stone until the city enters into a construction contract and a detailed schedule is established. With demolition comes 35 additional parking spaces for the new municipal complex.
There are no public meetings scheduled as of now, but once the city moves to the final design and construction phase, Sims said the city will share an update on the design and the schedule for moving forward.
“Currently the layout is still very similar to what was presented at the public meeting at the end of August and is available on the website,” said Sims.