City of Whitehorse staff can now begin drawing up the documents needed for a tender on the new city hall and transit hub downtown.
Whitehorse city council voted June 7 to authorize administration to move forward with the procurement on the building along with passing the first two readings of a bylaw that will add another $3.9 million to the budget for the project, bringing the total up to $24.7 million.
Before voting with the rest of council in favour of moving forward, Coun. Dan Boyd confirmed with staff the city is on track financially this year. A full financial report is anticipated to be out in the next few weeks.
The plans for the building would see the older section of city hall and the fire hall at the Second and Steele Street site demolished with a new services building/city hall and transit hub built by late 2023/early 2024. The newer section of city hall — built in 1987 — will remain, but there will be some renovations.
It’s expected Steele Street, from Second Avenue to Front Street, will be reduced to one-way only with the portion closest to city hall closed to allow for the building and a public area that will be landscaped. The city’s cenotaph will also be moved from Second Avenue to the Steele Street side with just one public entrance into the building on the Steele Street side.
The transit hub will be located on the Second Avenue side and allow for indoor seating and public washrooms. There could also be plans for transit users to eventually be able to buy tickets and check on-screen transit schedules in the hub.
The plans are part of the city’s larger building consolidation project which is seeing city staff moved to new and renovated city buildings around town. It has also seen the opening of the operations building off Range Road, a new downtown fire hall and will see parks and recreation staff moved to the former transit building in Marwell. The city’s former fire hall at the city hall site is now closed, as is the Municipal Services Building on Fourth Avenue.
“The services building, as a component of the overall building consolidation project concept, was planned to provide for core administrative and public counter services located primarily at the services building (city hall), with city operations located primarily at the new operations building,” an earlier report to council reads. “Each building has been designed based on those primary objectives.”
In voicing his support to move forward with the project, Coun. Samson Hartland pointed out the closure of the Municipal Services Building could eventually lead to more housing once the land is released for sale.
With financial support coming from the federal and territorial governments and a clear need to replace the building with staff cramped and the city continuing to grow, Hartland said he would support the budget change and going ahead with the tender.
“It’s time,” he said.
Hartland also pointed to plans for possibly a number of Mayday trees to grace the property, in stating his support.
While the Mayday tree next to city hall on Steele Street will be brought down as it is nearing the end of its life, the city is working to come up with a plan that will incorporate clippings from the tree to grow on the grounds and possibly other locations around the city.
In an emailed statement, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said the city is exploring a variety of options for the tree clippings. When a decision has been made – expected in a few weeks – the public will be informed, he said.
With approval now in place for city staff to proceed with procurement and third reading of the budget change scheduled to come forward June 28, it’s expected the tender will be released in late summer.
As it was noted in an earlier report to council though: “This represents a best-case scenario and has been developed to recognize the upcoming municipal election period, the federal funding program criteria, consultant capacity to expedite design and tender materials and key required approvals to meet the overall timeline.”
Hartland made it clear in his comments that he wants to see the territory’s business incentive program applied to the contract to help ensure local hiring.
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