It looks like North Charleston won't have to move far for a new City Hall.

City Council took the first step Wednesday to acquire a new City Hall by voting 9-1 to allow the mayor to negotiate a purchase agreement with the owners of a multi-story building under construction on Mall Drive, across the street from the current location.

The price cannot exceed $37.5 million, and Mayor Keith Summey said it will most likely be less than that. Last month he said he expected the cost to be about $35 million to buy the building, make some additions and put in new equipment and furnishings.

The city will not have to raise taxes to buy the three-story, raised building with 122 parking spaces beneath it.

It will be paid for by refinancing existing debt and using tax proceeds during the next eight years from new construction at Centre Pointe and around the Coliseum complex, said Warren Newton, city finance director.

The 150,000-square-foot building at 2405 Mall Drive, which is part of the Carriage Hill Associates complex that includes the Verizon building, is mostly completed on the outside, but its insides remain unfinished.

Summey said the builder put interior work on hold for three months until the city could study financing options to see if it could afford it.

If City Council approves the purchase agreement, the new City Hall could be ready to move into by the middle of next year, said Ray Anderson, assistant to the mayor.

"We are out of space," Summey said. "One floor over there is the size of all five floors over here. I think this is an opportunity to move the city forward. I don't want to leave here and leave the burden on the next City Council."

The mayor said the new facility will allow all departments except Public Works to be under one roof. Several other departments are scattered at the old Navy base, Park Circle and off Remount Road now.

The mayor said the current City Hall could be leased, providing the city an additional revenue stream, rather than selling the 56,000-square-foot building that cost the city $4 million to build 30 years ago.

"The opportunity is too good to pass up," Councilman Kurt Taylor said.

Councilman Steve Ayer voted against the move because he said City Hall could be expanded at its current location on LaCross Road without costing as much, and using leftover money for new sidewalks and drainage across the city.