City's Centennial Hall shaping up

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— The Centennial Hall Committee is facing some of the toughest questions any couple faces when it builds a new home What color carpet goes best with the new upholstery on the chairs?

Of course, the committee isn't a married couple, it's a group of six Steamboat residents presiding with two members of city staff, City Council President Kevin Bennett and Councilwoman Arianthtettner over the development of Steamboat's new town hall.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord told City Council this week the project is on target for a symbolic opening ceremony this year. However, the building won't be ready for its permanent opening until February 2001, at the earliest. When it's complete, it will house city planning offices, offices of the Orton Foundation, and a spacious new meeting hall for City Council and city Planning Commission meetings.

"My goal is to have enough completed in late 2000 where we could have a symbolic opening of Centennial Hall during our centennial," DuBord said last week. "We won't begin moving, and the building won't really be ready to open until February or March."

DuBord said the next big change to be noticed by passersby on 10th Street will be the completion of the roof within two to three weeks.

From its street-front elevation on 10th Street, one of the most apparent characteristics of Centennial Hall is the curved exterior wall linking the new city planning offices to the old brick powerhouse that is being renovated on the site.

DuBord said the curved wall was specifically intended to allow the new building to echo the turn-of-the-century power plant without overwhelming and consuming it.

Instead of adjoining the corner of the power plant, the curved wall reveals the northeast corner of the brick building, enhancing the impression that it is free standing.

Bernadette Kelly, an architect with Andrews and Anderson in Golden, said lead architect Nan Anderson took great care to make certain the new portion of the building didn't overwhelm the old power plant.

"The power plant is the tallest building there," Kelly said. She added that a recent shift from hand-tinted concrete panels to sandstone on the exterior of the new building will honor the intention of complementing the exterior of the historic building.

"We're not trying to compete with the brick or match it," Kelly said.

The switch in materials came about when the original concrete panels were discovered to be impractical and the Planning Commission strongly discouraged polished concrete blocks with a granite look as an alternative.

The construction budget for Centennial Hall is about $3.2 million with 45 percent of the cost budgeted from outside funding sources. Add in the contingency budget of $263,000 and another $300,000 for technology/audio visual equipment and the final tab grows to $3.7 million.

The technology budget is being supplied by the Orton Foundation, DuBord said. The figure of $3.2 million is for actual bricks and mortar construction. She added that bids for wiring the high-tech components of the building are being opened this week.

DuBord said change orders thus far have eaten up about $60,000 of the contingency fund. That amount includes the switch to sandstone on a portion of the exterior, a net cost of about $46,000.

"We believe there will be very few additional changes," she wrote in a memo to City Council.

Further into the interior of the building, the shell of the Citizens Hall is complete but the full effect of the room won't be visible until the raised seating for more than 100 people is installed.

The desk for City Council and the Planning Commission will be at floor level and much easier for the audience to see. DuBord emphasized that the acoustics and sound system in the new meeting hall will be greatly improved. The desk also will be removable so a variety of community events or performances can be accommodated.

DuBord pointed out that dataports for computers will be installed at several points in the large meeting room. The dataports will allow city staffers to bring their laptop computers to meetings, tap into the city's computer network and display documents on a large screen, visible to the public.

The dataports also will be available to architects and engineers making presentations on behalf of clients at city meetings, DuBord said. They'll have the option of bringing computer disks to public hearings to display their site plans and elevation drawings. Alternatively, there will be a large device similar to a flatbed scanner to allow them to display printed documents and drawings.

Already in place underneath the floor of Centennial Hall is the channel that will carry a fiber optic backbone to link the city building to high-speed Internet access.

The largest public space in Centennial Hall is the combined Great Hall and Citizens Resource Center. The Great Hall will feature laminated wooden beams and posts in a room that feels more spacious because it isn't a predictable rectangle; the curved exterior wall at the front of the building and a curved interior wall outside the theater-like Citizens Hall take care of that.

At one end of the Great Hall is the location for computer kiosks where members of the public will be able to access 3D computer modeling software. The software is intended to allow people to visualize the impacts of future developments on the natural and human landscape. DuBord said the staff of the Orton Foundation will be available to work with the public on the use of the computer software, when it's ready.

The offices of the Orton Foundation will be upstairs in the old power plant, under the eaves, but not until after the entire roof has been replaced.

The old power plant is essentially untouched at this point in the construction process. DuBord said that's because an anticipated grant of $160,000 from the Colorado Historical Society has yet to be finalized.

The dusty interior of the power plant reveals a rough brick interior that couldn't be duplicated with modern techniques. It also reveals something of the building's history, with a coal bin still full of coal and scattered traces of the loft's former purpose storing hay for livestock owned by the Elkins family, former owners of the property.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail: tomross@amigo.net

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