When designing a new house, it’s only right to consult everyone who will live there, even the kids.
As Mount Pleasant begins designing its new Town Hall, it’s taking a similar approach.
A new online service debuted last week that will help the town and its architects receive ideas and comments from the more than 70,000 people who call Mount Pleasant home.
The site, www.engagetompsc.com, is not meant to replace public workshops and meetings, which still will be scheduled as the building’s design takes shape in the coming year.
Instead, it’s meant to give more people an easier opportunity to speak up and describe what they want.
As Town Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Linda Page says, “It’s a building for the people, and the people have to be intimately engaged in the process.”
The special website is asking the right, open-ended questions:
What would make the new Town Hall a 21st-century facility?
How should the town showcase its history and promote its arts?
How can it be made more efficient and stand the test of time?
There also are less inspirational but still important questions about parking, landscaping and other possible uses on the site.
The Town Hall project is not a blank slate. Some big decisions already have been made, and it’s unclear whether all this input will second guess, or even undo, any of them.
The town has committed to leveling its current complex of three buildings (mostly built for other uses) and rebuilding at the 100 Ann Edwards Lane site. The budget is set at $22 million, and the town has hired Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects, Inc. to design the new complex.
The architects have been talking with town officials about how much space they need, nd whose department should be located next to what. But the conceptual designs, what the building will look like, won’t start emerging until later in the year.
The town already has taken these steps because of the obvious need to upgrade the offices for its 500-plus employees.
Mount Pleasant has become the fourth largest municipality in the state, but its current town hall is a series of modest, single-story buildings, two of which originally were built as a school and an engineer’s office.
The newest section, built in 2000 for the police department, is already out-of-date, though at least water didn’t pour in through its roof during the last heavy rain (that happened in the planning department).
The property covers almost 11 acres and has many nice trees. Should the building be urban and have an impressive presence on Houston Northcut Boulevard, or should its charm be hidden, much like the Automated Trading Desk campus on Ewall Street, about a mile away?
And the stylistic question also will predictably reverberate as residents weigh in on how much its architecture should reflect existing Lowcountry buildings or, in the website’s words, “Don’t worry about it! Be creative and innovative!”
The website is costing the town about $14,400. Its resulting input will hopefully do more than provide political cover for town officials (officials who already are weary of comments along the lines of “I didn’t know about that” when “that” was subject to several public workshops and meetings).
The website and the resulting input ultimately could lead to a better building, a better town.
Hopefully, the resulting Mount Pleasant Town Hall will be a work of architecture that the town’s future generations seek to preserve, rehabilitate and restore rather than to raze and start anew.
Town Administrator Eric DeMoura describes what’s at the stake by saying, “We get one shot at this.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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