Central still looking for land for new City Hall complex

A site selection committee will continue its search into 2014 for land to build a City Hall complex and community center.

Central’s City Center Selection Committee sent out a request for proposals in September seeking available land for sale or land donations of at least 15 acres in the Hooper Road, Joor Road and Sullivan Road area of the city.

City officials received seven responses and narrowed the list to four possible sites, Central Chief Administrative Officer David Barrow said.

Those four sites are 12 acres on Hooper Road behind the strip shopping mall where City Hall is currently located; more than 90 acres at the corner of Joor Road and Gurney Road; about 20 acres behind the Winn-Dixie store at the corner of Joor Road and Hooper Road; and 30 acres on Sullivan Road near Central Thruway.

Even though the committee is looking at the four sites, committee members are open to other sites as the search moves through the new year, Barrow said.

Plans for a new municipal complex have been in the works for years.

In addition to a building for City Hall, the city is looking for space that could encompass meeting rooms, a walking path or possible park, as well as enough space for expansion that could add other amenities and provide an area for some commercial projects, Barrow said.

The city currently leases three suites at 13421 Hooper Road for the Central Police Department and City Hall. The city uses the Kristenwood Building on Greenwell Springs Road, a catering and reception facility, for Central City Council meetings.

City Center Selection Committee member Jeanine Barnett said she would love to see a pond or gazebo at the complex at some point.

“It’s about having a place where the community can gather,” Barnett said.

Committee member Jon Simmons said although there are four viable locations in play, there is “nothing off the table” as far as possible sites for the new complex.

“We have to report our recommendation to the mayor, and then he will decide what to do with it,” Simmons said. “Speaking for myself, I don’t think we should work in a certain time frame. We’re not in a hurry. We want to do this right.”

Although ideas and plans are preliminary, Barrow said, the city wants to build a City Hall complex between 10,000 and 11,000 square feet.

The state has earmarked approximately $2 million in capital outlay funding for a new Central municipal complex. Other funding for the project would be pulled from the city’s general fund reserves of more than $8 million, Barrow said.

The next step in the search is for committee members to meet with Central School System officials Wednesday night to discuss the availability of vacant land the school system owns at the site of the former Central Middle School near the corner of Hooper Road and Sullivan Road.

Central Schools Superintendent Michael Faulk said the school system has offered in the past to allow the city to lease a portion of existing building space to renovate at the site but the offer was rejected.

Central School Board President James Gardner said he, Faulk and other school officials are planning to attend the 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday to listen to what the city has to say but he doesn’t think the school system is interested in parting with any of the available 28 acres the system owns at the former school site.

“We have our football stadium out there on the property, and we (the school system) have our own plans for a central school operations office out there. But they requested the meeting, so we will go to hear what they have to say,” Gardner said.

In November, voters in Central passed a school system tax extension to help fund school system improvements, including the demolition of some of the outlying buildings at the former Central Middle School campus. Three of the buildings at the former campus — including the maintenance building and home economics building — will not be torn down and could be used in the future for a new central office, Gardner has said.

Barrow said it would be nice if the land for the new City Hall complex could be purchased sometime in 2014.

“We can’t design anything really until we have a site picked and the land purchased,” Barrow said.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at the Central Community School System Conference Room, 10510 Joor Road, Suite 300.