Austin City Hall gets a facelift to make room for 10 council members, mayor

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A makeover of Austin’s City Hall started Wednesday to add more space for new city council members in 2015.  This is a direct result of the 2012 November elections when voters approved the 10-1 plan, which creates 10 single-member districts for Austin along with a citywide mayor.

Project manager David Smythe-Macaulay said they are on a tight deadline to get everything done by Sept. 2014.  Many people will be shifted around and Smythe-Macaulay said there are some obstacles with working in a space that’s being used everyday.

“The biggest challenge with construction is it’s noisy, it’s dirty, it’s intrusive and we’re going to have to try and keep that down to a minimum and allow people to do their work while we’re expanding their facilities,” said Smythe-Macaulay.

Crews will start renovating the second floor where they’ll add four new city council offices, staff resource and conference rooms.  One of the rooms will be a video conferencing room so council members can meet with people across the country.

This used to be where the City Auditor’s Office was located.  That has now moved to the Lower Colorado River Authority Space, 3701 Lake Austin Blvd.,  and will permanently move to Silicon Labs, 400 W. Cesar Chavez St.

Construction in the council chambers will begin at the end of June and will force city council meetings to the Travis County Commissioner’s Court in August for a month or two.  Crews will expand the dias to fit 13 people instead of just nine.

The city has a rendering of what the new chambers will look like after the facelift.  There is a big screen in the background that  David Smythe-Macaulay said was wishful thinking in the beginning and won’t be part of the actual design.

“The big screen TV came up very early as a want and as we progressed with design we realized the budget was going to be tight so that was the first thing to get cut,” said Smythe-Macaulay.  He said new TVs were added to the back of the room less than a year ago.

Smythe-Macaulay  said inside the chambers there will  be more benches for media, staff and aids.   They’re also going to move the audio visual control consul which, is in the middle of the chambers, to the side.  Crews will also move the city clerk’s desk to the west side of the room for extra space.

“We’re also expanding the executive session room,” said Smythe-Macaulay.  “That room is going to be expanded to fit a larger conference table that can seat 20 people and make some modifications to the room to make it more usable and better for the extra staff that will be in there.”

Part of the renovations will include upgrading all the audio and visual equipment.

The city is working on making the construction cite LEED, Leadership in Energy Environmental Design certified.

The total project costs $2.5 million and is expected to wrap up in Sept. of 2014.

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