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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bellevue council finalizes City Hall plans

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Bellevue will get a new $102.4 million civic center in downtown by 2006, under a plan unanimously adopted by the City Council.

Swayed by the promise of an aesthetic overhaul to the fortresslike office building destined to become City Hall, the council last night passed over a bare-bones, $78.2 million alternative. "It's not a cheap effort, but I don't believe that Bellevue is a cheap city," said Councilman Chuck Mosher.

The council also voted to sell the current City Hall to Michael O'Brien, owner of Lexus of Bellevue and several other car dealerships. The city will earn an estimated $20 million from the sale, and it won't need to move from the building until the new City Hall is finished.

The decision on the new City Hall ends seven months of discussions about what to do with the seven-story building at 450 110th Ave. N.E., which the city bought in December from Qwest Communications for $29 million.

City officials said half the building would house the police and fire departments and emergency dispatchers. The city has been trying for several years to replace cramped, outdated public-safety offices. But they were unsure whether to move the remaining city offices into the other half.

The council chose to move City Hall after a citizen committee said it would be cheaper than operating in two buildings.

A number of officials also welcomed the chance to boost the government's presence by putting it at a higher-profile position on downtown's eastern edge.

Plans call for extensive landscaping and an outside plaza on the northwestern side of the property, new windows on floors that are now windowless, a new "skin" for the building's concrete exterior, public art and a central concourse.

Several council members said they will continue to scrutinize construction plans with an eye toward cutting costs.

"It shouldn't be an opportunity to buy new toys," said Councilman Grant Degginger, who questioned spending plans for technology-related equipment.

The city plans to pay for the building purchase and renovation by selling approximately $102 million worth of 40-year bonds. The bonds would be repaid with $35.3 million in reserves, money from the sale of the current City Hall, and revenue from parking fees and dispatch contracts with other cities.

The city also would channel future money for capital projects, such as parks, roads and buildings, toward the project. The total cost is expected to reach $246.7 million, including interest payments on the bonds.

The council last night also approved a $6.2 million contact with the architectural firm SRG Partnership to design the building overhaul.

The sale of the current City Hall isn't scheduled to close until the end of the year.

Before then, the city would need to rezone the property so that a car dealership could be put there. Auto lots line much of 116th Avenue, but they are now barred south of Main Street.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or wcornwall@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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