Friday, September 10, 2010

City Hall

City Hall at 525 Angela Street isn't completely empty. The building has essentially been condemned and most of the city staff that used to work there are now in temporary digs, rented for a million bucks a year according to the paper, at Habana Plaza on Flagler Avenue. The old place on Angela Street is now marking time.I went by recently to take a few pictures because it seems likely that this place will be torn down sooner or later. The question is: what will come in it's place? Across the street the owner of the hotel has expressed her undying opposition to any reconstruction saying a building site will send her establishment into bankruptcy.Which attitude would pretty much end all construction everywhere in the city. City Hall is old and worn and Hurricane Wilma in 2005 didn't help.After the flood waters receded city employees complained of mold problems throughout the building and after some considerable dithering the decision was made by some important people, that the city does in fact need a new city hall. So almost everyone was moved out.I wandered in and met Miz Alice in Human Resources who was as usual very friendly and cheerful at her desk. She said the Internet Technology department is still in the building but HR is a lonely lot down in the semi-basement, an off white hall with electrical cables snaking across the walls and a rather worn gray carpet underfoot. The entrance smacks of a 1960 era school:I didn't bother to go upstairs, indeed I've never had reason to go upstairs. One used to pay parking tickets at the little booth downstairs and on the last occasion I lost my health insurance card I visited Miz Alice in her lair for my replacement. Other than that I have never had much reason to visit city hall. And what exactly a Cemetery Consultant is I have absolutely no clue. Nor shall I presumably in their brave new city hall, wherever that might end up being.The back of the building is a large parking lot, properly metered and very useful too for any activities one might be involved in on the 600 block of Duval which is a short walk away.The old building really does need to be replaced. The old louvered windows have been covered inexplicably by cement bricks. A rat's staircase according to one wag who used to work in the building.The question is what to do next. Replacing city hall and the fire station would supposedly cost 18 million dollars and the city has already spent 750,000 on architect's plans. The other idea is to build a new fire station here and use the rest of the space for a parking garage. All that and converting Glynn Archer School, mentioned in a previous essay would cost an estimated 25 million dollars.On the Simonton Street side of the building lies Fire Station Number Two.It is an unprepossessing place and clearly also needs replacement. Whatever plans have been mooted so far the idea remains to keep the Fire Station in place. This is the first line of defense for Duval Street and the core of Old Town. Response times are critical in a part of town consisting of old wood buildings with no off sets.I myself would take no joy in being a fire fighter working 24 hour shifts and never knowing when Dispatch will roll you out of bed with a horrible tone. Sometimes they bring us food on holidays and they know how to cook.Walking back around to Angela Street we see the hotel across the way. The idea is that construction noise and dirt would drive customers away when they build something on the lot.It is vegetated enough you'd think there would be some cover for the guests. City hall itself is shaded by trees, which hides the elderly nature of the building itself at first glance.The municipal trash can has another of those cute little notices on it to encourage everyone to use the bins:Eventually I expect they will start binning the building itself. Whatever comes next, and whatever it is will arouse controversy in our little tea cup of a town, I'm glad I remembered to snag some pictures of the old place.