On Aug. 27, City Council voted 6-1 to approve the schematic design and budget for Phase I of Sunnyvale’s new Civic Center project. The city’s growing population has rendered its current City Hall located at the corner of El Camino Real and Mathilda Avenue inadequate, and in 2015 the City began a community engagement process to create a new Civic Center that’s envisioned to reflect “the identity of Sunnyvale,” provide efficient, functional and flexible spaces, and is characterized as “Supporting participatory governance and being a model of fiscal and environmental sustainability.”
Phase I of the project includes a new City Hall, Emergency Operation Center, Public Safety Building interior renovations and site improvements. The new City Hall structure will be located at the corner of Mathilda and Olive Avenue right next to the old one, which will be demolished. In addition to the new facilities, six acres of open space will be created, as well as a plaza for public gathering and special events.
The City Hall building will be nestled in a grove of mature Redwood trees and the architecture will evoke a “treehouse” feel. Despite attempts to retain as many trees as possible, some will be removed and transplanted. The project is aiming for LEED Platinum status and will be an all-electric, net-zero building, meaning that it will consume as much energy as it generates. Some sustainability features include use of heat pumps for the water heater, solar panels and low-flow plumbing. The number of seats in the Council Chambers will increase by 100.
City staff presented various options for reducing the total cost of Phase I, estimated at $288 million. This included lengthy discussion about details such as whether to use granite versus artificial materials for the plaza area and the number of parking spots. While most supported the project overall, some Council Members weren’t keen on increases in project costs.
“I really think that we’re missing the mark on showing fiscal responsibility,” said Council Member Russ Melton.
Mayor Larry Klein commented that some of the features adding to the cost are tentative and that one of the “big ticket” items, the net-zero aspect, will save money over the long-term.
“The purpose of the new Civic Center structure is to improve the services we provide to our residents,” said Council Member Glenn Hendricks. “That has always been the number one test criteria and objective for the Civic Center project. We’ve been going through and collecting a lot of feedback, we’re going through a process and I think that this is the next step in that process. I’m very supportive of what we have here. I believe there will always be concern about costs…Staff is going through the right steps for progressing, and there’s an evolution of the project here and I’m very supportive of moving forward.”
The remainder of the design phase of the project is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2020, followed by construction bidding by summer 2020. Construction is anticipated to begin in summer 2020 with completion by 2023.