The Ocoee City Commission will be moving into its new City Hall Friday, Aug. 5, at 1 N. Bluford Ave.
“One of the main purposes is that we are moving more to the center of town,” Mayor Rusty Johnson said. “It’s in a better location here, and it’s also more accessible to citizens to come in and get service for their stuff.”
The three-story building spans more than 46,000 square feet. The first floor will have the commission chambers and the service departments — so people can go in and out without having to take the elevator. The city clerk’s office will be located on the second floor, but the majority of the second and third floors will be dedicated to administrative spaces. The commissioner’s offices and conference room will be located on the third floor.
Each floor has its own kitchen and dining area, as well as its own conference room. That way, each department has enough space to work during the day without having to take the elevators up and down.
“It’s built for 20 years from now,” Johnson said. “You could add another 50 employees inside here in the next 20 years without problem.”
A LONG TIME COMING
The commission voted on the building’s design and worked together with Wharton-Smith Inc. Construction Group and HKS Architects Inc. to create the vision.
“We were involved with the process of picking it out and (choosing) what we wanted to do,” Johnson said. “We went through a study first, and then we had an architect come in and we went though two or three sets of plans with him, figured out how we wanted to build it, what we wanted to do. It took the process probably a while, but overall, we all came to an agreement that this is what we wanted.”
A few years ago, prior to the start of the construction phase for the new City Hall, about 60 to 75 citizens were invited to share their input.
“We let them see and asked their suggestions about what they thought we should do,” he said. “It’s their place.”
According to Jamie Croteau, City Hall project manager and utilities department director, the new City Hall was built with a health and wellness theme in mind.
“To encourage our employees to stay active while working, our offices have stand-up desks with stationary desk bikes,” she said. “Each department has one desk bike that is shared among staff. We encourage our employees to stand more at their desks during the day.”
Johnson said he probably will need a desk bike, too.
“It’s great — you can sit there and pedal away,” he said. “(City Clerk) Melanie (Sibbitt) has already been using it down in her office, so I need to use one myself. … It shows the modernization of what goes on working in offices.”
The stand-up desks came into the design after research showed they can provide health benefits, such as lowering the risk for heart disease, obesity, and neck and back pain.
Croteau said the building also will provide an outdoor eating area for employees. It features water bottle fillers on every floor to encourage employees to use reusable drinking cups as well.
“We (also) have a wellness room set aside for our employees who may be breastfeeding or need privacy to take care of their specific health needs,” she said.
Regarding technology, the conference rooms will have the latest video conferencing technology, and the Ocoee TV and Commission Chambers will have cutting-edge broadcasting equipment and capabilities. Those improvements will make it easier to control and manage broadcasts during commission meetings.
“The city of Ocoee is the only municipality in Orange County with its own government television station,” Croteau said.
The façade originally was designed to have a more classic brick appearance. However, the commission decided on a more innovative look and chose white brick to give the building a modern look.
The building has windows in almost every office, allowing employees to enjoy natural light throughout the duration of the work day.
“This is precedent for what happens next,” Johnson said.
THE BIGGER PLAN
The City Hall is a central part of the city’s downtown redevelopment plan. The master plan includes more than $44 million capital projects that aim to enhance the public spaces in downtown Ocoee and some of the key infrastructure of the city.
Johnson is looking forward to serving the city of Ocoee from the new building the same he’s always done it.
“Personally, I am available all the time to people,” he said. “I like to talk face to face — that’s just the way I’ve done it for all these years, and it works. This just gives us a better opportunity to bring them up and let them come in and see the building and see what their tax dollar is doing, and sit down and talk with them. Local government has got to be a thing where you deal with citizens face to face.”