Each of the buildings has numerous problems that could be repaired. However, the work required is so extensive as to approach the cost of replacement according to a study commissioned from Plante Moran Cresa which is available on the city’s website. They found both buildings “functionally obsolete.”
Neither building was designed for the kind of use the city needs from it today and in the future. They were built for a time when manual typewriters and carbon paper were considered high tech. This is especially problematic in the police department which simply doesn’t have room for the equipment it needs today.
City Hall wasn’t even designed to be a City Hall, or even an office building to begin with. The architect modified a plan he already had for a school building. According to one of our local historians, the plans were given to the city free of charge. One look at the overall design of the building -- the extra wide hallways and stairwells -- and it’s clear it was modeled after a school. It’s broken up into a lot of small spaces separated by load bearing walls. It even has a central clock system which quit working after the most recent flood.
Unfortunately, what makes for a good school design does not make for a good City Hall. This building simply does not work well and it never did. Renovating it would make it look better and might solve the heating, cooling, and electrical problems but it wouldn’t make it work better. It would still be an extremely poor design.
There is a logistical problem too. Renovating would require moving all of the employees to another location while the renovations are done, then moving them back. There isn’t a suitable facility in Royal Oak to serve as a temporary City Hall. The city would probably end up renting portable office trailers and putting them in the parking lot.
Finally, the aspect of this project that seems to have the most overwhelming public support is the downtown park. It’s also the amenity that makes the private office development most attractive. The park is planned for the location of the current city hall and police building. If City Hall operations don’t move, there is not a place for the park.