Within the next two years, Falls Township will have the municipal building it deserves.
Following several years of discussion, public tours and an analysis about the antiquated building’s various shortcomings, the Falls Township Board of Supervisors set the wheels in motion for construction of a new 55,174-square-foot building adjacent to where the existing building stands.
This week, the board granted preliminary and final land development approval for the project. Prior to coming before the board, Falls Township’s planning commission and zoning hearing board had the opportunity to review and act on the plans. Prior to that, the public was invited to tour the building during several events.
“We’re doing our best to build a building that this township can be proud of,” Supervisors Chairman Bob Harvie said. “Just because we’re classified as a second-class township doesn’t mean we have to look like one.”
The current building was never designed to be a municipal building. The building’s elevator, roof and atrium have always been an issue, and the building, as it is constructed now, does not have a true front entrance.
Departments, including the police and administration, are short on space, including room for meetings.
During storms, the building is prone to flooding. Ceilings above the codes and zoning office leak onto employees’ desks after heavy rain.
Plans call for a municipal complex approximately 30 percent larger than the existing building.
The project is expected to cost approximately $18 million, which would be funded through Falls Township’s long-term restricted savings account.
Officials had considered four different plans, including three that incorporated renovations to the existing building. Ultimately, renovating would cost more than building new, officials said.
Supervisors Vice Chairman Jeff Dence said that the existing building is essentially a two-story police station with little room for anything else. The new building will include a great parks and recreation department with “lots of space for programs.”
“What we’re going to have is going to be absolutely beautiful,” Dence said.
Following the supervisors’ approval, the architect will prepare bids. The project will be advertised, bids will be solicited and a contract award and subsequent construction is expected by spring 2017. From there, construction, which will be carried out in several phases, will commence over an estimated 18-month period.
The new municipal complex would be situated in the field across from the current township building on Lincoln Highway. The first phase includes the administration, police building and Public Works department. Once those buildings are constructed, the current municipal building would be demolished.
“We want to be able to keep operations open and make it as easy as possible for people to access this building and also build a new building,” Harvie said, adding that renovating the current building would be much “more challenging.” “Sometimes it’s way more expensive to renovate a building than to build a new one.”
Infrastructure, including parking lots and an improved stormwater management system, would be built at the demolition site. In all, the supervisors support a plan to increase the green space by one-half acre, thereby decreasing impervious surface
Given that the existing building was never meant for municipal purposes, Harvie said Falls Township has “gotten a lot of good use of this.”
“I think we stretched it pretty far,” he said, adding that the new municipal complex will “make this township be even more proud of itself.”