News Column

Old Town Hall plans move forward

July 6, 2014

By Susan Feyder, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)



July 06--Officials in Eagan are charting the future of the city's century-old Town Hall, heavily damaged last fall in an arson fire.

The final plan hasn't been decided yet. But officials expect to restore the structure and move it to a more central location on the city's municipal campus.

"A big part of our conversation has been how do you want to tell your story -- what elements of Eagan are important to recount about the past, present and future?" said Steve Oliver, a project manager with an architecture firm that prepared options for reclaiming the building.

The building served as Eagan's official meeting space until 1965. It has functioned as a museum, with displays and artifacts from the city's history. It was a popular destination for school and scout groups as well as newcomers wanting to learn about the community.

The building withstood this year's brutal winter shrink-wrapped in plastic while the city considered options for preserving it.

Choices included looking at ways a renovated town hall might add space for the Eagan Historical Society for additional display, hosting groups and events as well as offices, Oliver told the City Council at a recent work session.

After reviewing the options -- costs ranged from $586,000 to $2.3 million -- the council has decided against trying to fix the building on its current site across the street from the city campus or moving it into the vacant fire administration building.

The council chose not to pursue either the most or least expensive options -- taking the building apart, or salvaging only portions.

Council members agreed that in addition to the objects within the town hall, the building itself is a valuable artifact. They said residents had voiced a strong preference for keeping the building intact.

The council last week approved extending a contract with Oliver's firm, Mohagen Hansen Architectural Group, to work on additional cost estimates and design work for restoring and relocating the building. The architects will develop two designs -- one with and another without a basement.

A previous estimate for restoring the building and making it a free-standing structure near city hall came to $1.5 million.

The project will be funded in part by about $86,000 in insurance from the League of Minnesota Cities after a $25,000 deductible. The source of other funds has not been determined, but officials said that the town hall's 100th anniversary this year creates opportunities for fundraising.

The council's discussion of the town hall's future included a broader look at some of the city's other space needs.

"We are somewhat space challenged," Mayor Mike Maguire said of city hall. Maguire and other council members said that if the renovated town hall isn't housed in the vacant fire administration building, its space could be used for some city functions.

Built in 1998, the fire administration building hasn't drawn much interest from buyers since the city put it up for sale, said Council Member Paul Bakken.

An analysis prepared for the city by commercial broker Cassidy Turley pointed out challenges in marketing the building to business users, such as its lack of a traditional office layout and its location in a residential area.

"My gut feeling is that [a sale] isn't going to happen," Bakken said. "It's possible there's more utility to taxpayers if it's reused in some way for city services."

The fire administration building has been used to store many of the items that were saved and cleaned up after the town hall fire, which remains under investigation.

Susan Feyder -- 952-746-3282

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(c)2014 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Source: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)


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