WHITEFISH BAY - Whitefish Bay village officials are beginning to discuss how the 47-year-old village hall building could be renovated to repair aging infrastructure, expand the public lobby and make office operations more efficient.
The conversation about renovating village hall began in 2014, when the village board budgeted $165,000 to renovate the lobby, replace ceiling tiles and purchase matching office furniture. Some ceiling tiles were replaced and some office furniture purchased, but the lobby renovation was postponed until a study of the building's space needs was performed.
The village board contracted with Bray Architects last year to conduct a building evaluation. Whitefish Bay Village Manager Steve Sheiffer said the major goals of a potential renovation project would be to refurbish aging building systems, expand the public lobby area and address operational inefficiencies.
The building is in need of electrical upgrades, as well as refurbished heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The building has two elevators that would also be replaced if a renovation project was approved. Fire alarms and security systems would also be installed. There are also some code compliance and safety issues, such as a room in the basement with rows of computer servers that was flooded in 2010. The proposed mechanical upgrades are estimated to cost about $700,000.
The village hall was originally built in 1970 to house the public works department, engineering department and the dispatch center for Shorewood, Glendale and Whitefish Bay police departments. Police communications were consolidated with other North Shore communities at the Bayside Communications Center in 2012, and public works and engineering departments now operate out of a building on Lydell Avenue.
Sheiffer said the design of the space is not conducive to collaboration between departments or accessibility with the public. For example, bathrooms were built in the middle of the building that divide the administrative offices into two sections.
"We have much more square footage than we need but it’s not configured correctly," Sheiffer said of the 26,000-square-foot building.
In its report, Bray Architects found the lobby area is undersized and that the multiple transaction counters can be confusing to visitors. No public restrooms are available on the first floor. In addition to expanding the lobby, the report suggests creating a conference room on the north side of the lobby for longer interactions than those handled at the counter. The lobby improvements would cost roughly $500,000 if approved.
The report also suggested $275,000 in renovations to the second floor by making it handicap-accessible and renovating the bathrooms. In a meeting on Feb. 20, trustees agreed that they would like to see second-floor renovations kept to a minimum.
The police department side of the building is about 3,000 square feet short of the recommended square footage, according to the Bray report. To acquire that extra space, the report suggests converting the three garage spaces into office space.
The police department has also requested an indoor garage to keep its police vehicles — a trend among local police departments due to the expensive computer equipment in the cars. The Bray report suggests the construction of a $825,000 garage that would house 10 vehicles and a sally port. Village trustees were not favorable to that idea, so Bray was tasked with generating cost estimates for a smaller police department addition.
Village President Julie Siegel said she was not in favor of building a garage for police vehicles. She said neighbors next to village hall will continue to be involved in any discussions about a potential renovation project.
The total price tag of the proposed renovations presented at the meeting was $3.1 million, but Sheiffer stressed to trustees that the report was only intended to illustrate possible renovations identified by department heads. He said the village board will ultimately decide whether a renovation project is needed and what the scope of those renovations would be.
Trustees are expected to revisit the renovation discussion at a March 20 board meeting. The board will likely decide in April whether the village hall renovations should be included in the three-year capital improvement plan.