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Springfield city hall set to be renovated with $4 million in COVID relief funding

Springfield's Historic City Hall is shown on January 26, 2023 after snowfall in Springfield.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield's Historic City Hall on January 26, 2023 after snowfall the day before. After City Council approved federal funding to renovate the building in July, on January 23 it voted to use a "construction management at risk" model to select a construction manager. CMAR is intended to yield better and cheaper end results.

Springfield’s Historic City Hall on Boonville Avenue and Chestnut Expressway dates back to 1894. It was built as a U.S. Post Office and Customhouse — but for 85 years it has hosted City Council meetings and other city work. New plans call for facility upgrades using a new type of construction management.

Springfield’s Historic City Hall on Boonville & Chestnut dates back to 1894. It was built as a U.S. Post Office and Customhouse. But for 85 years it has hosted City Council meetings and other city work.

Back in July, Council approved a new round of renovation for the castle-like structure, using $4 million of coronavirus bailout money received by the City of Springfield under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Congress approved the law shortly after President Biden was inaugurated. It includes $1.9 trillion in taxpayer spending. By law, local governments like Springfield’s are allowed to spend their ARPA money to provide government services.

At Council’s meeting Monday night, City Architect Jennifer Swan explained what the city plans to fix up.

“The project scope encompasses the renovation of the basement through the third floor," Swan told the nine councilmembers. "In general, the improvements include the addition of a new elevator, interior fire stair, accessible restrooms, upgraded mechanical-electrical systems, office space for various city departments, improvements to city council chambers and support spaces, improved archive storage space, and to provide flex space for city meetings while meeting the historic registration and LEED Silver certification requirements.”

According to a 2005 story by legendary Springfield News-Leader columnist Hank Billings, City Hall received its first major renovation back in the 1970s. Then it got a pair of smaller upgrades in the 2000s that cost roughly $2.5 million in today’s dollars.

Councilmembers voted unanimously on January 23 to embrace a delivery method for the City Hall project known as Construction Management at Risk.

CMAR, as it’s known, is different from the typical lowest-bidder process because a construction manager guarantees to complete the entire project for a fixed maximum price at the outset of the work. The idea is that a more collaborative process yields better and cheaper end results.

Across America, CMAR is a fairly new idea for government buildings. It was approved in California in 2013. Three years later, then-Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed it into law here. According to the Springfield Business Journal, an El Dorado Springs school building completed in 2018 was likely the first CMAR project in southwest Missouri.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.