CW starts process of changing auto museum into a city hub


By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Rick Palsgrove
The former McDorman Auto Museum on East Waterloo Street.

As Canal Winchester prepares to take ownership of the former McDorman Auto Museum site on East Waterloo Street, the city is readying the process to turn the complex into a new municipal building and community center.

During a Feb. 3 Canal Winchester City Council work session, Contract Services Administrator Bill Sims asked council to consider and approve an ordinance waiving competitive bidding for the project and proceed with a design-build method by sending out request for proposals to design-build companies.

“The legislation is to proceed for a waiver of the normal competitive building procedure,” Sims said. “It’s the same process used on the public service building in 2015.”

According to the Design-Build Institute of America, in a design-build project, the owner works with a single entity that functions as a team with a designer and contractor. With a traditional project, the owner works with a designer, contractor and sub-contractors.

Sims said the waiver is only the first step—in which information is obtained from interested companies—in a three-step process, which requires council approval at every juncture.

“Right now we’ve got to start with step one and go out for proposals,” said Sims, who said it is his department’s intent to send out proposal requests to four or five companies.

According to Sims, the design-build process is now allowed under the city charter and provides both more flexibility and time savings in comparison to traditional construction contracts.

“We ended up with a better product at a better price with the public service building,” said Sims, who reported design-build is more efficient and, conservatively speaking, can save 30 to 45 construction days in the process.

Councilman Pat Lynch wanted to ensure, by approving waiving the competitive bidding process, that council was not cut out of the decision-making process. Sims said council still needs to approve a contract once the proposals are returned and reviewed and later approve the final plan for the complex.

“We will have to come back to council to award the contract,” said Sims. “The first process is to get the information. “These building projects lend themselves very well to the design-build process. Instead of us having to think of everything under the sun, they (contractor) have to do that.”

At its regular meeting following the work session, council approved waiving competitive bidding and approved the ordinance under emergency language.

With approval of the waiver, Sims anticipates sending out proposal requests by the end of the month, returning to council with a preliminary design contract by the end of April and potentially starting construction by mid-summer.

The former McDorman Auto Museum is getting new life as the hub of government activity.

The $2.4 million owner-financed agreement between the city and Alice McDorman is for a 10-year term with the city making quarterly payments of approximately $73,000.

The former auto museum, located on a 1.29 acre site at 45 E. Waterloo St., 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.

Part of the contract with Alice McDorman includes naming rights as the Bob McDorman Building.

Another $2.2 million is budgeted for renovations. That cost, according to Finance Director Amanda Jackson, will be initially funded through a short-term loan. Jackson has stated the city has no intention to ask residents for additional debt to cover costs.

Preliminary plans include a new community center in the west end of the building, approximately 8,000-square-feet of empty space in the east end of the building the Columbus Metropolitan Library is considering as a new branch, a doubling of city council space seating with overflow space available for larger crowds, expanded office space, meeting rooms and security upgrades.

With the demolition of the current Frances Steube Community Center, available parking spaces will increase and the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department is considering moving into the present municipal building at 36 S. High St.

As for the fate of Town Hall, 10 N. High St., the city has no plans to liquidate the structure, but its use after the new municipal complex opens is yet to be determined.

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