SAN ANTONIO – Nearly three years after work began, the renovation of San Antonio City Hall is finished, and top staff and council members are returning to a simultaneously new and familiar space.
“We have all the modern day conveniences in there, but it still looks and feels like the old City Hall,” said Assistant City Manager Rod Sanchez, who oversaw the renovation.
The building was vacated in the summer of 2018 for a redesign and renovation, which included gutting the interior, shuffling and re-purposing office spaces, enhancing security, and adding a set of wide handicap-accessible ramps to the front. The roughly $40 million project was finished more than a year late, though city officials are happy with the final result.
City Hall contains offices for the mayor and 10 council members, as well as the city clerk, city manager, and some of the top city staff.
During construction, the mayor, city council members, and city manager temporarily set up in the Plaza de Armas building. Other staff relocated to a set of modular buildings on Dolorosa Street. Now they’re back.
“Everybody was moved in - all their boxes were moved in today,” Sanchez said. “So everybody should be getting situated the rest of this week and, you know, hit the ground running.”
The original building was constructed in 1888, Sanchez said, though it wasn’t occupied until 1889. It was renovated in 1927, when a fourth floor was added, and underwent a smaller restoration in 1994.
However, Sanchez said there were “a plethora of issues” that plagued the building, from flooding, plumbing, electrical, and people getting stuck in elevators.
“We assessed the building, and it was decided, you know, we needed to bring the building up to code. And we said,, ‘Well, let’s not just bring the building up to code, but let’s modernize it,’” Sanchez said.
Though Sanchez puts the final price tag on the redesign and renovation at about $40 million, he said they still need to tally everything up with the contractor.
“You know, there could be penalties as far as the contractor,” Sanchez said. “The contractor also experienced some difficulties with the job. So we need to sit down with them. We need to figure out what the final total is. And once we do that, we’ll take it to city council and ratify that,” Sanchez said.
The city expected the project to be done in February 2020, but Sanchez said there were a number of issues that came up.
“You know, it’s an old building and you started taking out walls. They discovered a bunch of structural issues that they had to deal with, you know, we really wanted to preserve and we had to preserve the historic building. We had to preserve the integrity of the building,” Sanchez said. “It was a big job. And I think it was bigger than what the contractor anticipated.”
Other issues he mentioned including getting the new air conditioning system balanced, getting hot water to work, and the issues that come with excavating at an historic site.
“If they hit something that looked kind of suspicious, they had to stop. We had to bring an archeologist and, you know, make sure that we weren’t doing something we shouldn’t do,” Sanchez said.
Beyond its office spaces, City Hall has rooms to accommodate council committee meetings and the less-formal, full city council “B-sessions.”
The first meeting at the newly renovated building is expected to be the June 2 B-session, though as of Wednesday night the meeting had not yet been added to the city’s online calendar.