MOUNT PLEASANT - The town's most prominent government building soon will be razed and replaced by what could be one of its most prominent parks.
It's all part of a $22 million project to rebuild the existing Town Hall at Houston Northcutt Boulevard and Ann Edwards Lane.
Those who want to see what this all may look like once work is finished in two years may stop by a Tuesday workshop at Town Council chambers.
The park not only will serve as the entrance to Town Hall but also will frame the building's most impressive facade, said Sam Herin of Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects Inc., which is designing the new town hall.
"We're pretty excited about unveiling this thing," he said.
The park area is about the same size as the Washington Square park behind Charleston City Hall. The part of Town Hall that will front on the park will be its lobby and main room, a room that will be used for both council meetings and municipal court.
"There's a lot of talk about transparent government," Herin said. "I'm hoping the building will come alive when you drive by it on a Tuesday night and you see the council is meeting."
Landscape architect Bill Eubanks of Seamon Whiteside Associates will lead Tuesday's workshop on the park.
Eubanks said he has done a few studies, "but we've set all of those aside until after these public meetings. As far as I'm concerned, it's a blank slate. We have those existing trees, but after the existing building and the existing parking lot are removed, it really is a blank slate."
The public can talk about things it wants to see in the park, such as a lawn, more trees, a fountain, public art, benches, and a playground.
Town Administrator Eric DeMoura said the budget still looks like $22 million, all of which will come from a tax increment financing district. Such districts siphon off taxes that otherwise would go to county government and schools and give them to a city for public improvements.
Work could begin on the project's first phase early next year, as the planning and administrative offices are relocated so their current buildings can be torn down. The new Town Hall will be three stories and occupy the northern part of the site, along the back of the Whole Foods shopping center.
Once the new Town Hall can be occupied, the final phase - demolishing the town's other existing buildings and creating a new parking lot and the new park - could wrap up by the summer of 2016.
The existing track won't be affected, and while the current gymnasium will be razed, the town is saving room on its 11 acres for a new one.
Council made the decision to build a new Town Hall on its current site for two reasons: It already owned the land and a tax increment financing district would help defray a large part of the cost. That would not be the case for a more centrally located site.
Still, town resident Mike Schwartz, who lives more than 10 miles away in Charleston National, said he was bothered that the town dismissed a more central location and offered little chance for public input.
"It just seems to me when there's an opportunity to put the town hall in a more central location, it ought to be looked at very seriously to see if that's a better thing to do," he said. "Where the Town Hall is located right now is not visible at all."
Herin and project architect Billy Connell said they are trying to create a building whose colors and design reflect the town's unique sense of place - from marsh colors inside to the hues of hand-made bricks to a pattern recalling sweetgrass baskets. But the building's sheer size presents its own challenge.
"How do you make something in Mount Pleasant look like old Mount Pleasant when it's 87,000 square feet?" Herin asked.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.