About 80 residents gathered around tables Wednesday night with pens out and drawing pads handy, ready to give their input on design ideas for the proposal to build a new City Hall in Citrus Heights.
“This was a tremendous success,” said Facility Manager Chris Myers. “With all of the conversation going on, and the dialogue, and everybody having input… this is a phenomenal start for us to be able to pull this together.”
Wendy Hoyt, a facilitator for the event, explained the limited purpose of the meeting: to plan, envision, collaborate, share design ideas with fellow citizens, and give the architects a feel for what image the community would like to have reflected in their City Hall. Myers also added an emphasis on looking 50-100 years ahead, considering the image the building would convey to future children and grandchildren.
“There’s no decisions being made tonight,” clarified Hoyt, in her introduction. “The council hasn’t made a decision on whether or not to move forward with the City Hall.”
Following a slide show presentation of design ideas by WLC Architects – the City’s newly hired architect group – residents discussed ideas in groups, organized by tables titled “Grapefruit,” “Seville Orange,” and other citrus tree names – apparently reflecting that aspect of the city’s name and history.
After collaborating for about 30 minutes, each table shared their ideas with the other groups, and several areas of agreement were heard.
Residents tended to favor a transitional style, rather than a classical or fully modern style for the building. There was also agreement on maximizing energy efficiency through solar panels, avoiding steps to aid accessibility for the elderly, and a general agreement on some kind of outdoor water features like a pond or fountain, although the drought was a concern. There also appeared to be agreement on the need for a portion of the building to be two-story.
Discussion regarding location of the new building was considered off topic for the meeting, although one comment slipped through from a resident who said the location for City Hall should not be moved. His comment was met with a brief applause.
Plans for building a new City Hall were first discussed last year, when Dignity Health proposed plans to construct a massive 66,000 square ft. medical office complex in the current hall’s location, generating discussion about demolishing the existing City Hall complex and building another to replace it at one of several proposed locations.
Hoyt explained that when the City first incorporated in 1997, they had to “scramble” without public involvement at all – resulting in the current location on Fountain Dr. She said the Dignity Health proposal has given the City a unique opportunity to do it better this time, and build a new hall with proper planning and input from residents to reflect the nature of the community.
The event Wednesday night was the third in a series of workshops put on by the City. The first was held in August of last year, and the second workshop was held last month, each with a focus on a different aspect.
During the first meeting, residents were presented with a preliminary design for City Hall, but residents disliked the look, calling it “just a box,” according to Hoyt. The second meeting, packed with about 180 people, discussed the aspect of location.
Noticeably absent from the room were the voices of residents under 30 years of age, a fact brought up by several comments that addressed walkway accessibility and long-term planning for the building’s appearance. A concern about sidewalks and steps was mentioned by an elderly gentleman from the “Grapefruit” table who commented, “We don’t walk, we shuffle.” His remark was met by understanding chuckles from other attendees.
Asked about the reason for the generation gap in those present at the meeting, Hoyt replied, “I don’t know.” Although she added that couples with younger children typically have less available time than those who are retired.
The meeting closed with a short session of questions and answers, the majority of which revolved around site selection and costs – both of which the City says will be addressed during future meetings.
A summary of the community input will be presented to the council on February 27, and a follow-up community workshop will be held on April 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Citrus Heights Community Center.
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