October 2013 – St. Louis Park, Minn. – When the first floor of the St. Louis Park City Hall came due for an update, the city turned to Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates to give the space the new life it deserved.

St. Louis Park’s City Hall is nearing the end of a significant renovation, with major construction work expected to wrap up by the latter part of October. The project was first discussed when fire administration officials – long housed on the first floor of City Hall – began relocating to the newly built Fire Station No. 1.

Changing Needs

Originally home to the City’s police department (which moved into a new, separate building adjacent to City Hall in 1993), the first floor of the 50-year-old building has housed a number of different offices and departments. In addition to the fire administration officials, the City’s communications department, some ParkTV staff and the Information Resource group were shoehorned into various nooks and crannies, some of which were former storage areas. This left some staff essentially working out of glorified closets.

“With the departure of the fire department staff, we had an opportunity to start from a clean slate,” said KOMA interior designer Cindy Nagel. “We designed the entire space to help the City of St. Louis Park meet their objectives of creating a welcoming and operationally efficient environment within the confines of an existing building footprint. Both City staff and visitors alike will benefit tremendously from the new layout,” she said.

Entry Redesign

The building’s main entrance was originally on the third floor on the north side of the building, with a walkway from Minnetonka Boulevard. As traffic increased and parking on Minnetonka was eliminated, the main entrance was relocated to the south side of the building on the first floor, to a door that was originally designed as only an employee entrance. But, beyond the inclusion of a canvas awning, the entryway was never altered to properly accommodate visitors and their needs. The interior layout of the relocated entrance was very cramped; to see the receptionist you would have to look behind you after walking in the door and it was hard to see the stairs or elevator.

The broad objectives of the project – arrived upon after in-depth conversations with staff members and City officials – were to create a design that welcomes the public; has the receptionist, elevators and stairs clearly visible to help direct people; provides functional office and storage space for the IR group; supports the city’s wellness initiatives; and created a clear delineation between staff and public spaces.

“We wanted to create a space that was much more open and inviting, visually interesting and easy to navigate,” Nagel said. “Keeping the project objectives always clearly in view, we were able to reconfigure the entire space, fulfilling public and staff area requirements and introducing a dynamic aesthetic.”

Key project features include:

  • Exterior glass vestibule and curved, pre-cast engineered stone entrance canopy with halo illuminated building signage.
  • An open lobby, reception and concourse design that utilizes curvilinear forms to pull visitors naturally through the space and strategically placed clear and translucent glass panels to invite light throughout.
  • A major improvement to the stairwell by opening it up with glass enclosures and center railings, removing existing surfaces back to the original block wall, cladding with an acoustical recycled wood product and the addition of a carpet runner. A visual connection is now created between all three floors.
  • Readily accessible, functional, technology-driven public and private meeting spaces.
  • Relocated public restrooms, incorporating staff shower and locker facilities.
  • Improved staff break room.
  • An emphasis on sustainability with completely renovated plumbing, electrical and heating systems, exterior vehicle recharging station, increased access to natural lighting, recycled content, and low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) materials and finishes.
  • Organized work space that meets the specific operational and storage needs of the Information Resources group.

“Any one of these improvements, taken by itself, would have made a significant positive impact on the first floor,” said Nagel. “Together, the entire space is transformed.”

City of St. Louis Park Director of Inspections Brian Hoffman agrees. “One of the goals of the project was to make the space more usable for contractors and residents visiting City Hall,” he said. “We’ve certainly accomplished that. Visitors will have a much more pleasant, productive and overall positive experience.”

Nagel noted, “As with any of our projects, we wanted to ensure that we’re blending form and function. The first floor is a high-traffic, high-use area, and it needed to be designed in a way that accommodated the number of people that would be moving through it. But it also needed to be aesthetically pleasing, friendly and warm. We wanted staff and visitors alike to feel uplifted by being in the space.”

Added KOMA designer Kevin Dummer, LEED AP BD+C, “I was born in St. Louis Park, graduated from SLP Senior High School, and have visited City Hall multiple times for public TV projects, permits, etc. I feel honored to have had this opportunity to give something back to the community that gave me so much. I hope the community loves the renovation as much as we do.”

For more information, visit www.stlouispark.org.

Portions of this article came from Sun Sailor articles written by Seth Rowe.