Plans to renovate the former SunTrust bank building off U.S. Highway 321 and fully convert it into a new Lenoir City Hall have been placed on hold until the state approves redesigns to expand the assembly room.
Amber Scott, Lenoir City assistant city administrator, said redesign plans were submitted to the state fire marshal’s office about a month ago, and hopes are to give Knoxville-based Wright Contracting Inc., the go-ahead to continue construction within the next month.
“There was a column inside the building that was going to cause us to have to sort of reverse the layout of the council room/courtroom,” Scott said. “It would have made the room quite smaller. It would have changed the layout considerably, and so we decided to be able to flip the room back the way that it was originally to sort of shift it back to where it was in the original plans.
“We could do that, we could accomplish that, by building out the wall approximately 16 feet and removing the sally port,” she said.
Plans to construct a sally port toward the “front side of the building” have been scrapped, with Scott noting the project is still in the “very premature stages.” If all goes well, Scott said she hoped city officials would be moved and set up in the new building by “late spring.”
“If we don’t have to change it and all, then I would guess that we probably three to four months off,” Councilman Harry Wampler said. “That would be my guess. But if we have to go back and change this redesign that we’ve had this time and had to do a lot to it, then that could delay it even further but I don’t think so.”
McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects and Interior Designers worked on designs for the project. Scott said Wright Contracting Inc., has been working since August.
“We didn’t want to end up with a courtroom/council room the same size or smaller than what we already have, because that’s sort of the goal,” Scott said of the redesign to add 16 feet of space in the assembly room. “We want to increase security. We wanted more space, and so I believe that the city would have been making maybe not the best decision if they had missed the chance of extending out that room. Basically it’s one or the other. Either we did the sally port or we did the council room, because we’re trying to keep the taxpayer dollars in mind.
“We want to make the best use of the taxpayer dollars, and so you have to think of the goal of what you’re trying to do here,” she added.
Renovations are about 20-30 percent complete, with flooring, counter tops, carpet and walls to come, Scott said.
“They have put in the steel ... in there, the studs and basically if you were to go in there, which it’s closed off right now, but if you were to go in there you would see the general layout of what the renovation is going to look like,” Scott said. “You can literally see the walls, the shape of the walls, the placement of the walls, because the steel is what’s within the wall structure. That’s the work that’s been done thus far.”
Councilman Mike Henline said he thinks the new City Hall will be a “wonderful thing” for Lenoir City residents to have all services and departments in a single location.
“I just think the whole deal on the City Hall’s just great because we got such a good buy in the building, and I think it’s something the city will use — I mean it’ll be our City Hall for many, many years,” Henline said. “It’s just I’m as excited that being our City Hall, being on (Highway) 321 and just having it being more convenient for the people to have all our offices in one building.”
Officials are still considering what to do with the current City Hall once the transition is made to U.S. Highway 321. Wampler said the city will likely look to rent or sell the property.
“There’s some few things that have been discussed, but we haven’t decided for sure,” Scott said. “This is something that will take some thought and it’s a very important building downtown, and obviously we want to make the best use of it possible for the taxpayers and for the city, so just stay tuned for that decision because I’m sure it’ll be a big one.”