BOISE — The mayor and City Council will sit lower Tuesday night when they greet constituents in the council's new chambers for the first time.
There's a better audio-visual system in place. Wheelchair access is improved.
City Hall is safer in the event of a fire and better able to withstand an earthquake.
That last item was the impetus for a remodeling of Boise's City Hall complex between 6th Street and Capitol Boulevard and between Main and Idaho streets. After determining the complex - which once was three distinct buildings - had enough room to accommodate growth of city government, the city decided to upgrade several aspects of its headquarters.
The project came to include overhauls of the council chambers, first-floor lobby and - in the second phase - the outdoor plaza on the Capitol Boulevard side.
The city expects the projects' total cost to hit $14 million, including the $6 million second phase.
Essentially, the work to shore up City Hall against potential earthquakes involved tying the three buildings into one. Steel beams now anchor the buildings to stair shafts, the most solid structures in the complex, assistant city engineer Rob Bousfield said. That should reduce the side-to-side shaking that makes tremors so damaging.
"About 80 percent of the work that we've done is just basically taking it apart, making structural improvements and putting it back," city spokesman Vince Trimboli said.
What was once a gap - covered by a third-floor ceiling - between the three buildings is now office space on the second and third floors.
After the project was underway, City Council members voted to redo their chambers where they meet.
That added about $1.3 million to the project cost, which covered repairs to the roof above the chambers. Crews would not have found the problems with the roof if they hadn't remodeled the chambers, Trimboli said.
Much of the structural work on City Hall is done. There is some work left to do in areas of the building that staff and equipment occupied while work took place in their original offices. Crews will address those places in the second phase, public works director Neal Oldemeyer said.
"If we would have tried to take on the entire project at once, it just really wasn't feasible," Oldemeyer said.
In the second phase, crews will redo the plaza on City Hall's west side. Among major concerns are leaks that allow water to drip into the building's foundation, threatening the structure's long-term integrity, Bousfield said.
The large outdoor fountain and an array of flags will be removed; the remodeled plaza will have large planters, shaded seating areas and more space for public events, along with new city-sponsored artwork.
Sven Berg: 377-6275