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February 26th, 2009
Kyle council saves old city hall

After years of rot, Kyle expects to re-open its old city hall for public uses in about a year, following an $800,000 renovation.

By BILL PETERSON
Executive editor

KYLE – As the city develops around the burgeoning new intersection of Interstate-35 and Kyle Parkway, a symbol of the old Kyle has been left in the center of town to rot.

The historic Kyle City Hall on the town square along Center Street has sat empty for going on two years, too dilapidated to be useful for anyone. The Kyle Area Senior Zone (KASZ), which took over the facility when the city government moved its operations to the new city hall two years ago, finally had to give up on the town square location and move its meetings to local churches.

Meanwhile, the city government despaired of the possibility that renovations to the old city hall could be fit into the budget. Some oldtimers hoped the old city hall and its yard could be converted to a public library. Others in town thought the old city hall should just be torn down.

But still others just wanted their old city hall back, and it appears they have won.

Last week, the Kyle City Council looked at a plan to rehabilitate the historic city hall and approved moving forward. Before the end of this week, the city staff will finish preparing a Request for Qualification (RFQ), which will go out to potential constructions managers.

Schematic designs for the rehabilitation already are in the works. Construction is scheduled for July, with the project due for completion in March 2010.

“What I love about it is it’s going to take a potential eye sore and turn it into a destination,” said Kyle Councilmember David Wilson, who won election last May on a campaign pledging to preserve downtown landmarks like the old city hall and the old train depot. Wilson has since been among the leaders in the move to bring the old city hall back to life.

“There’s a lot of history and a lot of passion about it,” Wilson said. “When you take care of something that’s important for your soul, that’s a lot of what it’s about.”

The 80-year-old building has served as a schoolhouse, city office building and community center as the site of wedding receptions, birthday parties and other celebrations. Fair on the Square, since re-named and moved to the much larger Gregg-Clark Park, took place around the old city hall for years.

The city commissioned Architexas of Austin to work up a master plan and cost estimates, which the city council reviewed last week. The plan calls for the old city hall to serve as a functioning headquarters for KASZ, which will take care of the facility. In addition, the hall will be used for Meals on Wheels and a quilters’ club, as well as income-producing events such as weddings, receptions, parties and reunions.

The plan also calls for re-arrangements of the floor plan to move the restrooms, restore the building’s historic assembly space and re-expose the vaulted ceiling that has been concealed by previous renovations.

During its initial steps toward refurbishing the building in 2007, KASZ found oddities resulting from changes made 1970s. The ceiling is sunken to cover the tops of arched windows from the inside. Tom Searcy of KASZ said he found that beams were missing during an examination of the roof and ceiling. Roof leaks and electrical issues only added to questions about the building’s feasibility.

Architexas found additional problems, such as cracked and missing plaster, along with rotted siding.

The total cost of the project comes to $807,768, including $636,244 for construction, $84,977 for hazardous materials abatement, demolition, hauling and communications, and $86,547 for architecture and engineering. The city is likely to pay for the renovation by issuing some kind of a debt instrument.

Viewing the city hall from the south side.

The Burleson Street entrance to the city hall.

The interior, where Kyle held city council meetings for decades.

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