Room to Grow
Georgina offices at capacity
Nov. 8-9, 2016
By Leah Wong
Anticipating growth in staffing levels and conformity with legislated accessibility requirements, the Town of Georgina is considering the functionality and efficiency of its existing civic centre.
At its meeting last week council received a report from consultants Pivotal Projects, +VG Architects and ThinkingStrategy: New Paradigms on the town’s options for either relocating its civic centre or renovating the existing building to meet changing needs.
“We held a focus group [to talk to staff] about how they felt about the facility. What struck us is the lengths that town employees have to go to serve the customers … in what are, at times, very adverse circumstances,” ThinkingStrategy principal Judith Amoils told council. “Staff are very committed to quality customer service but need better tools to [deliver] that.”
The current civic centre was built in 1958 as an institutional residential building. The town later bought and repurposed it to be used as an office building. While additions and alterations have been made over the years the consultants noted that it is not well suited for use as a civic office due to its long corridors.
Amoils said the town should expect to spend between $1-million and $1.4-million to address occupancy needs over the next three to five years. Interim upgrades to the existing building will allow the town to implement a longer term solution - either renovating the existing civic centre or building a new centre.
If council decides to stay in the building longterm, reno-vations will need to be undertaken to meet the legislative require-ments of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Amoils said that meeting AODA requirements would require extensive construction work as the building’s elevator shaft is too small and 63 doorways are too narrow to be in compliance.
Factoring in the capital investment as well as the 30-year maintenance, operating and interest costs, the consultants estimate that staying in the existing building would cost between $44.6- and $45.1-million depending on the staging of construction. Alternatively, building a new facility on the site of the proposed multi-use recreational complex in South Keswick is estimated to cost $45.1-million over 30 years.
The consultants said building a new facility in South Keswick offers the best value for money as it allows for a smaller and more efficient floorplate than could be achieved through renovations to the existing building. Council will discuss its options, as well as the cost of short-term renovations, as part of its 2017 budget process. The resulting budget is anticipated to be approved in February.
“I love the idea of staying here, this building has so much history. However, we have to think of the future,” Ward 1 councillor Naomi Davison told council. She cautioned that if significant renovations are needed in the existing building there could be surprises that could slow construction. She reminded council of the delays in construction work on The Link, the town’s community hub that opened last year.
Mayor Margaret Quirk told council that it is important to hold a public consultation on the future of the civic centre before council makes a decision. She said this will allow residents to provide input on the decision and inform them about the challenges with the existing building.
“We have to get out and do public consultation so people know that it’s not just because we think we’d like to have a pretty new building,” said Quirk. “We have some real deficiencies here in terms of AODA compliance.”