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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bellevue tries to put zip into bland building

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

See how City Hall might look


The public is invited to review and comment on design proposals for the new City Hall at an open house from 6-8 p.m. March 4 in Conference Room 2 CD at the existing City Hall, 11511 Main St.

How do you refresh a bulky, bland look dating from the early 1980s that's reminiscent of something designed to help survive a nuclear attack?

In the case of Bellevue's new City Hall, mix earth tones with shiny metal, add a lot of windows and wood, and surround it with greenery.

That's the solution architects are offering as the city tries to turn a bunkerlike downtown Bellevue office building into the hub of civic life in the Eastside's largest city.

The city bought the building at 450 110th Ave. N.E. for $29 million in late 2002 and hopes to move into it by the end of 2005.

The design unveiled before the City Council on Monday night would cloak the building's concrete exterior in a combination of silver or gray metal and reddish-brown terra cotta, a ceramic material.

What is now a dirt parking lot, blackberry brambles and a nondescript entrance at the northwest end of the property would be converted to a large grass gathering spot lined by walkways and trees leading people toward the main entrance. A building near Northeast Sixth Street and 110th Avenue Northeast could house a coffee shop that would help connect the property to other parts of downtown, said Rick Zieve, an architect with SRG Partnership, the architecture firm designing the renovation.

"We're trying to encourage this to be a part of the urban life," he said.

A high-ceiling concourse cutting through the center of the building would be the main public thoroughfare. There, people could pay utility bills, make park reservations, get a building permit, request public records or make other common transactions.

Part of the concourse would be lined by large southwest-facing windows. It would end at the City Council chambers, housed in a cylindrical room with wood-paneled walls.

Council members praised the overall design for enlivening the building. But several tempered their praise while they wait to see the final cost projections.

"It's going to be beautiful," said City Councilman Don Davidson. "Still, we've got to put some dollar costs to this."

The building renovation, coupled with the cost of buying the building, is expected to total about $102 million.

The plans are expected to match the initial budget set by the council, said Chris Raftery, a senior project manager for Lease Crutcher Lewis, the Seattle-based company overseeing the work. The company is working to bring costs within that budget, he said.

Councilman Grant Degginger questioned why the plans included a new building to house amenities such as a coffee shop.

That building's costs could be offset by leases to companies wanting to locate there, said Matt Terry, director of Planning and Community Development.

The council is scheduled to host two public hearings about the project, one April 5 on the final architectural design and one May 3 after the detailed project budget is released. The council is expected to vote on a maximum spending cap May 24.

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

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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