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Jacksonville to demolish old city hall, build a new one

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Jacksonville City Hall

This file photo of the present Jacksonville City Hall shows a building that was first occupied by city offices in 1978. Not all sections of that building were available to the city at the same time, according to an article from February 1978; the move-in process was gradual.

A new city hall is in Jacksonville’s future as City Council members voted unanimously last week in favor of demolishing the current structure and building anew.  

Jacksonville City Mayor Johnny Smith said Friday the city had architects look at city hall’s present building on Church Avenue, and they advised against attempting to remodel. 

The building would need much work to bring it up to code, according to Smith. City officials made the decision to rebuild, rather than spending the time, effort, and expense needed to meet the code’s standards. 

The building was first occupied by city offices in 1978; it was a medical office before it was Jacksonville City Hall.

“You can come in and make all the improvements, and still have an old building,” Smith said. “It would make more sense just to build a new building that’s going to last 50-60 years than trying to keep putting lipstick on this pig.”

The present building and its land are owned by the city’s Water Works, Gas and Sewer Board. Council members on Oct. 1 approved buying the building and land from the board for a price of $200,000.  

The new building will go up on the same site, according to Jacksonville Public Information Officer Ben Nunnally. 

Demolition could start as early as spring 2022, while the new construction plans are still being decided, Nunnally said. 

Issues with the building’s plumbing and electrical systems were factored into the decision to build anew rather than renovate, he said. In addition, the city is growing at a rapid pace, with the most recent census showing one of the largest growths in the county.  

“As we’re growing, we’re starting to have more businesses come in. We’re starting to have more attention put on us,” Nunnally said. “And it feels like it’s time to go ahead and update where we conduct city business from, to give people something that’s kind of reassuring about the nature of the city and how seriously we take our community and the businesses that choose to work with us.”

Nunnally said constructing a new city hall will be a lengthy process that might not be completed for a while, and the location at which the city will be conducting its business in the meantime has yet to be decided.

“April 1 is sort of the date that we’re throwing around, but we won’t really know until we’ve gotten further in the process of planning,” Nunnally said in reference to a demolition date. 

Nunnally also said the city doesn’t have cost estimates on any of the planning yet beyond the purchase of the actual land. The new building will also be 100 percent city offices and will no longer be sharing a space with the city’s water works, gas and sewer board. 

Jacksonville City Council members could not be reached for comment. 

An artist’s proposed renderings by Bill Whittaker for what the new city hall could look like have been submitted and are being reviewed by city officials. Design ideas, such as a second floor and ideas on how to create more parking, Nunnally said are all objectives that are still in the works.