Three architectural firms, including two in Key West, have made the first cut in the bid competition to win the job of designing the reconstruction of the Glynn Archer Elementary School as the new City Hall.
William P. Horn Architects, Bender Associates Architects -- both local businesses -- and Rodriguez and Quiroga, of Coral Gables, were ranked as the top three in that order by the six-member selection committee comprised of mostly city staff.
The city released the bid package Oct. 23 and on Jan. 18 sent a memo to City Manager Bob Vitas, who will present the item to the city commissioners for final approval.
The commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.
Estimates for the reconstruction loom between $18 and $21 million, as Key West continues to rent office space at Habana Plaza on Flagler Avenue in the meantime.
No dollar figure is included in the memo, but the rule of thumb for such projects is that the designs cost between 8 and 10 percent of the total construction. Commissioners may reject the rankings and choose another firm.
Also applying for the bid were Bermello Ajamil & Partners, Inc, of Miami; R.J. Heisenbottle Architects, P.A., of Coral Gables; mbi-k2m Architecture, Inc., of Key West, Rick Z. Smith & Associates, of Tampa; and Solaria Design & Consulting Co., of Key West.
In the lengthy saga over a new City Hall, Tuesday's decision finally gives some traction to the Glynn Archer reconstruction.
Over the past several years, before commissioners snapped up Glynn Archer Elementary as the next City Hall, Key West poured nearly $1 million into the direction of Angela Street, where the former government headquarters had fallen into disrepair, making some employees complain of sickness from their environs.
Clayton Lopez was among the city commissioners who pressed for Angela Street as the City Hall locale, especially since so much taxpayer money had been spent on designs and that the near complete overhaul needed to update and repair the Glynn Archer school.
"At a point I threw my hands up and said, 'We just need to get a City Hall," said Lopez.
The city definitely wasted some money on Angela Street, Lopez said, but some of the cost is part of the location choosing process.
"I know I went on two bus excursions where we went and looked at different sites to narrow them down," said Lopez.
The school, 1302 White St., which was built in 1926 with an additional building added in 1955, was handed over to the city by the School Board to become what Mayor Craig Cates envisions as a grand City Hall. The city will take possession of the school building when the current students vacate it in June.
Although the city will pay for all reconstruction, the School Board will have access to the building for office space and retain the part rented by the Boys & Girls Club, according to the final contract.
"We're not getting it for free," said Lopez. "It's a trade-off, and it still is not really ours because of the part they will have access to."
Commissioners are already promising tight reins on spending.
"There will be a construction manager on that site, 24/7, to make sure there are no cost overruns," said City Commissioner Mark Rossi. "I'm not going to sit on that dais and have cost-overruns and change orders."