Astoria leaders are pondering some major revamps of downtown buildings. At a recent city council meeting, leaders took in a presentation from architects. They showed designs for proposed remodels of Astoria City Hall and the Astoria Public Library.
Troy Ainsworth is a principal with Portland architectural firm Fletcher Farr Ayotte PC. He was on hand at the April 5 council meeting and said the designs for city hall have been in the works for a while.
"It went on hold for quite some time and recently we have been able to re-look at it," he said.
Plans are to leave several bank vaults still intact that are remnants from the days when city hall was a bank building, and design the remodel around them. Removing the vaults is cost prohibitive, partly because they provide structural support for the building.
Ainsworth said one big concern for FFA in designing the city hall remodel was fire safety.
"Exiting doesn't meet code," he said. "A major piece of our design is to introduce new stairways to exit the building."
Ainsworth said the presence of the city council chambers on the second floor accentuated fire safety concerns, since the room can accommodate a large crowd of people but currently has only one exit.
If the city follows FFA recommendations, the building will ultimately have three functioning stairways to allow safe egress. Other proposed features include partition walls in some open areas, and a reception area on the third floor to help visitors avoid confusion navigating around city offices located there.
"It would be a customer service area," Ainsworth said. "A central place that you can go that makes sense."
A second presentation by FFA addressed possible revamps of the Astoria Public Library.
Ainsworth said the 1960s era building used "tilt wall" construction techniques, which involve precast concrete panels bolted to a structural frame. That means it would be a relatively simple matter to take those panels off and replace them with something else to give the building a new look. Such an approach would be much easier and less expensive than, say, constructing an entire new building.
The more the architects studied the buildings bones, the more they liked the structure.
"It took off from there," Ainsworth said.
That led FFA to create an updated library design that would let in more light.
"We were intrigued with the possibilities of what could be done with that," Ainsworth said. "Take all the panels off the north side and put in their place a wall of glass."
Other proposed renovations include removing the second floor stacks, and remodeling the basement storey for public access. The basement has 14-foot ceilings.
It's not clear yet whether the city will be able to go through with any plans to revamp the library building. Astoria has a $1 million endowment that was left to the city with the stipulation that it be used to build a new library. The city could do the FFA remodel within that $1 million price tag, but legal questions remain.
The city hall remodel would also cost in the range of $1 million. City leaders will decide at a future meeting whether to go ahead with that plan.